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Title: Across the Salt Seas - A Romance of the War of Succession
Author: Bloundelle-Burton, John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Across the Salt Seas.



ACROSS
THE SALT SEAS


A ROMANCE OF THE
WAR OF SUCCESSION



BY
JOHN BLOUNDELLE-BURTON

AUTHOR OF "IN THE WAY OF ADVERSITY,"
"THE HISPANIOLA PLATE," "A GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER," ETC.



HERBERT S. STONE & CO.
CHICAGO & NEW YORK
MDCCCXCVII



COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY
HERBERT S. STONE & CO.



Across the Salt Seas.



CHAPTER I.

Dreams he of cutting foreign throats, of breaches, ambuscadoes,
Spanish blades; of healths five fathoms deep.--Shakespeare.


"Phew!" said the captain of _La Mouche Noire_, as he came up to me
where I paced the deck by the after bittacle. "Phew! It is a devil in
its death agonies. What has the man seen and known? Fore Gad! he makes
me shudder!"

Then he spat to leeward--because he was a sailor; also, because he was
a sailor, he squinted into the compass box, then took off his leather
cap and wiped the warm drops from his forehead with the back of his
hand.

"Death agonies!" I said. "So! it is coming to that. From what?
Drinking, old age, or----"

"Both, and more. Yet, when I shipped him at Rotterdam, who
would have thought it! Old and reverend-looking, eh, Mr. Crespin?
White haired--silvery. I deemed him some kind of a minister--yet, now,
hearken to him!"

And as he spoke he went to the hatchway, bent his head and shoulders
over it, and beckoned me to come and do likewise; which gesture I
obeyed.

Then I heard the old man's voice coming forth from the cabin where
they had got him, the door of it being open for sake of air, because,
in this tossing sea, the ports and scuttles were shut fast--heard him
screaming, muttering, chuckling and laughing; calling of healths and
toasts; dying hard!

"The balustrades!" he screamed. "Look to them. See! Three men, their
hands stretched out, peering down into the hall; fingers touching.
God!"--he whispered this, yet still we heard--"how can dead men stand
thus together, gazing over, glancing into dark corners, eyes rolling?
See how yellow the mustee's eyes are! But still, all dead! Dead! Dead!
Dead! Yet there they stand, waiting for us to come in from the garden.
Ha! quick--the passado--one--two--in--out--good! through his midriff.
Ha! Ha! Ha!" and he laughed hideously, then went on: "The worms will
have a full meal. Or"--after a pause, and hissing this: "Was he dead
before? Hast run a dead man through?"

"Like this all day long," the captain muttered in my ear, "from the
dawn. And now the sun is setting; see how its gleams light up the
hills inland. God's mercy! I hope he dies ere long. I want not his
howlings through my ship all night. Mr. Crespin," and he laid his hand
on my arm, "will you go down to him, to service me? You are a
gentleman. Maybe can soothe him. He is one, too. Will you?"

I shrugged my shoulders and hitched my sea cloak tighter round me;
then I said:

"To do you a service--yes. Yet I like not the job. Still, I will go,"
and I put my hand on the brass rail to descend. Then, as I did so, we
heard him again--a-singing of a song this time. But what a song! And
to come from the dying lips of that old, white-haired, reverend-looking
man! A song about drinkings and carousings, of girls' eyes and lips and
other charms, which he should have thought no more of for the past two
score years! and killing of men, and thievings and plunder. Then another
change, orders bellowed loudly, as though he trod on deck--commands
given to run out guns--cutlasses to be ready. Shrieks, whooping and
huzzas!

"He has followed the sea some time in his life," the captain whispered
as I descended the companion steps. "One can tell that. And I thought
him a minister!"

I nodded, looking up at him as I went below, then reached the open
door of the cabin where the man lay.

He was stretched out upon his berth, the bedding all dishevelled and
tossed beneath him, with, over it, his long white hair, like spun
flax, streaming. His coat alone of all his garments was off, so that
one saw the massive gold buttons to his satin waistcoat; could
observe, too, the richness of his cravat, the fineness of his shirt.
His breeches, also, were of satin, black like his waistcoat--the
stuff of the very best; his buckles to them gold; his shoes fastened
with silver latchets. That he was old other things than his hair
showed--the white face was drawn and pinched with age, the body lean
and attenuated, the fingers almost fleshless, the backs of his hands
naught but sinews and shrivelled skin. And they were strange hands,
too, for one to gaze upon; white as the driven snow, yet with
a thickness at the tips of the fingers, and with ill-shapen,
coarse-looking nails, all seeming to say that, once, in some far off
time, those hands had done hard, rough work.

By the side of the berth, upon one of the drawers beneath it, pulled
out to make a seat, there squatted a mulatto--his servant whom he had
brought on board with him when we took him into the ship in the Maas.
A mulatto, whose brown, muddy looking eyeballs rolled about in terror,
as I thought, of his master's coming death, and made me wonder if they
had given his distempered brain that idea of the "mustee's yellow
eyes," about which he had been lately shrieking. Yet, somehow, I
guessed that 'twas not so.

"How is 't with him now?" I asked the blackamoor, seeing that his
master lay quiet for the time being; "is this like to be the end?"

"Maybe, maybe not," the creature said in reply. "I have seen him as
far gone before--yet he is alive."

"How old is he?"

"I know not. He says he has seventy years."

"I should say more," I answered. Then I asked: "Who is he?"

"The captain has his name."

"That tells nothing. When he is dead he will be committed to the sea
unless we reach Cadiz first. And he has goods," casting my eye on two
chests, one above the other, standing by the cabin bulkhead. "They
will have to be consigned somewhere. Where is he going?"

"To Cadiz."

"Ha! Well, so am I. He is English?"

"Yes--he is English."

'Twas evident to me that this black creature meant to tell nothing of
his master's affairs--for which there was no need to blame him--and I
desisted from my enquiries. For, in truth, this old man's affairs were
not my concern. If he died he would be tossed into the sea, and that
would be the end of him. And if he did not die--why still 'twas no
affair of mine. I was but a passenger, as he was.

Therefore, I turned me on my heel to quit the cabin, when, to my
astonishment, nay, almost my awestruck wonderment, I heard the old man
speaking behind me as calmly as though there were no delirium in his
brain nor any fever whatever. Perhaps, after all, I thought, 'twas but
the French brandy and the Geneva he had been drinking freely of since
we took him on board, and which he brought with him in case bottles,
that had given him his delirium, and that the effect was gone now with
his last shriekings and ravings.

But that which caused most my wonderment was that he was speaking in
the French--which I had very well myself.

"What brings you here, Grandmont?" he asked, his eyes, of a cold grey,
fixed on me.

"So," thinks I, "you are not out of your fever yet, to call me by a
name I never heard of." But aloud, I answered:

"I have taken passage the same as you yourself. And we travel the same
road--toward Cadiz."

Meanwhile the negro was a-hushing of him--or trying to--saying:
"Master, master, you wander. Grandmont is not here. This gentleman is
not he"; and angered me, too, even as he said it, by a scornful kind
of laugh he gave, as though to signify: "Not anything like him,
indeed."

But the old man took no heed of him--pushing him aside with a strength
in the white coarse hand which you would not have looked to see in one
so spent--and leaned a little over the side of the berth, and went on:

"Have you heard of it, yet, Grandmont?"

Not knowing what to do, nor what answer to make, I shook my
head--whereon he continued: "Nineteen years of age now, if a day. Four
years old then--two hundred crowns' worth of good wood burnt,--all
burnt--a mort o' money! But we have enough left and to serve, 'tis
true. A plenty o' money--though 'tis soaked in blood. Nineteen years
old, and like to be a devil--like yourself, Grandmont!"

"Grandmont is dead," the negro muttered. "Drownded dead, master. You
know."

This set the old man off on another tack, doubtless the words
"drownded dead" recalling something to him; and once more he began
his chantings--going back to the English--which were awful to hear,
and brought to my mind the idea of a corpse a-singing:

    "Fishes' teeth have eat his eyes;
       His limbs by fishes torn."

Then broke off and said: "Where am I? Give me to drink."

This the negro did, taking from out the drawer he sat upon a bottle of
Hungary water, and pouring a draught into a glass, which, when the old
man had tasted, set him off shrieking curses.

"Brandy!" he cried, "Brandy! French brandy, not this filth. Brandy,
dog!" and as he spoke he raised his hand and clutched at the other's
wool, "If I had you in Martinique----" then, exhausted, fell back on
his pillows and said no more, forgetting all about the desired drink.

Now, that night, when I sat with the captain after supper, he being a
man who had roamed the world far and wide, and had not always been, as
he was now, a carrier of goods only, with sometimes a passenger or
two, from London to the ports of France, Spain and Portugal, we talked
upon that hoary-headed old sinner lying below in the after-starboard
cabin; I telling him all that had passed in my hearing.

And he, smoking his great pipe, listened attentively, nodding his head
every now and again, and muttering much to himself; then said:

"Spoke about two hundred crowns' worth of good wood being burnt, eh?
That would be at Campeachy. Humph! So! So! We have heard about that.
Told the black, too, that he wished he had him in Martinique, did he?
Also knew Grandmont. Ha! 'tis very plain." Then he rose and went to
his desk, lifted up the sloping lid and took out a book and read from
it--I observing very well that it was his log.

"See," he said, pushing it over to me, "that's what he calls himself
now. Yet 'tis no more his name than 'tis mine--or yours."

Glancing my eye down the column, I came to my own name--after a list
of things by way of cargo which he had on board, such as a hundred and
seventy barrels of potash, sixty bales of hemp, a hundred bales of
Russia leather, twenty barrels of salted meat, twenty-eight barrels of
whale oil and many other things. Came to my own name, Mervyn Crespin,
officer, passenger to Cadiz. Then to the old man's:

"John Carstairs, gentleman, with servant, passenger to Cadiz."

"No more his name than 'tis mine--or yours," the captain repeated.

"What then?" I asked.

"It might be--anything," and again he mused. "Martinique," he went on,
"Campeachy. A friend of Grandmont's. Let me reflect. It might be John
Cuddiford. He was a friend of Grandmont's. It might be Alderly. But
no, he was killed, I think, by Captain Nicholas Crafez of Brentford.
Dampier, now--nay, this one is too old; also William Dampier sailed
from the Downs three years ago. I do believe 'tis Cuddiford."

"And who then is Grandmont, Captain? And this Cuddiford--or
Carstairs?"

"Ho!" said he, "'tis all a history, and had you been sailor, or worn
that sword by your side for King William as you wear it now for Queen
Anne, you would have known Grandmont's name. Of a surety you would
have done so, had you been sailor."

"Who are they, then?"

"Well now, see. Grandmont was--for he is dead, drowned coming back
from the Indies in '96--that's six years agone--with a hundred and
eighty men, all devils like himself."

As he said this I started, for his words were much the same as those
which the old man had used an hour or so before when he had spoken of
something--a child, as I guessed--that had been four years old, and
was now nineteen and "like to be a devil" like himself--Grandmont. It
seemed certain, therefore, that this man, Grandmont, was a friend in
life, and that now there was roaming about somewhere a son who had all
the instincts of its father, and who was known to Carstairs, or
Cuddiford.

This made the story of interest to me, and caused me to listen
earnestly to the captain's words.

"Coming back from the Indies, and not so very long, either, after the
French king had made him a lieutenant of his navy--perhaps because he
was a villain. He does that now and again. 'Tis his way. Look at Bart,
to wit. There's a sweet vagabond for you. Has plagued us honest
merchants and carriers more than all Tourville's navy. Yet, now, he is
an officer, too."

"But Grandmont, Captain! Grandmont."

"Ah! Grandmont. Well, he was a
filibuster--privateer--buccaneer--pirate--what you will! Burnt up all
their woods at Campeachy--the old man spake true--because the
commandant wouldn't pay the ransom he and his crew demanded; also
because the commandant said that when he had slaughtered them all, if
he did so, he would never find out where their buried wealth was. Then
he took a Pink one day with four hundred thousand francs' worth of
goods and money on board, and slew every soul in the ship. Tied dead
and living together, back to back, and flung them into the sea. Oh! He
was a devil," he concluded. "A wicked villain! My word! If only some
of our ships of war could have caught him."

"Yet he is dead?"

"Dead enough, the Lord be praised."

"And if this is a friend of his--this Cuddiford, or Carstairs--he must
needs be a villain, too."

"Needs be! Nay, is, for a surety. And, Mr. Crespin," he said, speaking
slowly, "you have heard his shrieks and singings--could you doubt what
he has been?"

"Doubt? No," I answered. "Who could? Yet, I wonder who were the dead
men looking down the stairs, as they came in from the garden."

"Who? Only a few of their victims. If he and Grandmont worked together
they could not count 'em. Well, one is dead; good luck when the other
goes too. And, when he does, what a meeting they will have there!" and
he pointed downward.



CHAPTER II.

SECRET SERVICE.


It seemed not, however, as though this meeting were very likely to
take place yet, since by the time we were off Cape St. Vincent--which
was at early dawn of the second morning following the old man's
delirium--that person seemed to have become very much restored. 'Tis
true he was still very weak, and kept his berth; but otherwise seemed
well enough. Also all his fever and wanderings were gone, and as he
now lay in his bunk reading of many papers which the negro handed to
him from the open uppermost chest, he might, indeed, have passed for
that same reverend minister which the captain had, at the beginning,
imagined him to be.

Both of us--the captain because he was the captain, and I because I
was the only other passenger--had been in and out to see him now and
again and to ask him how he did. Yet, I fear, 'twas not charity nor
pity that induced either of us to these Christian tasks. For the
skipper was prompted by, I think, but one desire, namely, to get the
man ashore alive out of his ship, and, thereby, to have done with him.
He liked not pirates, he said, "neither when met on the high seas, nor
when retired from business"; while as for myself, well! the man
fascinated me. He seemed to be, indeed, so scheming an old villain,
and to have such a strange past behind him, that I could not help but
be attracted.

Now in these visits which I had paid him at intervals, he had told me
that he was on his way to Cadiz, where he had much business to attend
to; sometimes, he said, in purchasing goods that the galleons brought
in from the Indies, sometimes in sending out other goods, and so
forth. Also he said--which was true enough, as I knew very well--the
galleons were now due; it was for this reason he was on his way to the
south of Spain.

"So," said the captain, when I repeated this, "the devil can speak
truth sure enough when he needs. To wit, it is the truth that the
galleons are on their way home. What else has he said to you, Mr.
Crespin?"

"He has asked me what my business may be."

"And you have told him?"

"Nay. I tell no one that," I replied, "It is of some consequence, and
I talk not of it."

Yet here, and with a view to making clear this narrative which I am
setting down, 'tis necessary that I should state who and what I am,
and also the reason why I, Mervyn Crespin, am on my road to Cadiz on
board a coasting vessel, _La Mouche Noire_--once a French ship of
merchandise, now an English one. She was taken from that nation by
some of our own vessels of war, sold by public auction, and bought by
her present captain, who now is using her in his trade between England
and Holland, and Holland and Spain--a risky trade, too, seeing that
war has broken out again, that England and Austria are fighting the
French and Spanish, and that the sea swarms with privateers; yet,
because of the risk, a profitable trade, too, for those who can make
their journeys uncaught by the enemy.

However, to myself.

I am, let me say, therefore, an officer of the Cuirassiers, or Fourth
Horse, which, a short time before the late King William's death, has
been serving in the Netherlands under the partial command of Ginkell,
Earl of Athlone. The rank I hold is that of lieutenant--aspiring
naturally to far greater things--and already I have had the honor of
taking part in several sieges, amongst others Kaiserswerth, with which
the war commenced, as well as in many skirmishes. Now, 'twas at this
place, where my Lord the Earl of Athlone commanded, that I had the
extreme good fortune, as I shall ever deem it, of being wounded, and
thereby brought under his Lordship's notice. As for the wound, 'twas
nothing, one of M. Bouffler's lancers having run me through the fleshy
part of my arm, and it was soon healed; but the earl happened to see
the occurrence, as also the manner in which I cut the man down a
second later, and from that moment he took notice of me--sent for me
to his quarters when the siege was over, spoke with commendation of my
riding and my sword play, and asked me of my family, he being one who,
although a Dutchman who came only into England with his late master,
knew much of our gentry and noble homes.

"Of the Crespins of Kent, eh?" he said. "The Crespins--a fair, good
family. I knew Sir Nicholas, who fell at the Boyne. What was he to
you?"

"My uncle, sir. The late king gave me my guidon in the Cuirassiers
because of his service."

"Good! He could do no less. Your uncle was a solid man--trustworthy.
If he said he would do a thing, he did it--or died. 'Twas thus in
Ireland. You remember?"

"I remember, sir. He said he would take prisoner Tyrconnel with his
own hands, and would have done it had not a bullet found his brain."

"I do believe he would. Are you as trustworthy as he?"

"Try me," and I looked him straight in the face.

"Maybe I will. A little later," and even as he spoke fell a-musing,
while he drank some schnapps, which was his native drink, and on
which, they say, these Hollanders are weaned--from a little glass.
Then soon spake again:

"What languages have you? Any besides your own?"

"I have the French. Also some Spanish. My grandmother was of Spanish
descent, and dwelt with us in Kent. She taught me."

"Humph!" And again he mused, then again went on, though now--doubtless
to see if my French was any good, and to try me--he spoke in that
tongue.

"Could you pass for a Frenchman, think you, amongst those who are not
French, say in Spain itself?"

"Yes, amongst those who are not French, I am sure I could. Even
amongst those who are French, if I gave out that I was, say, a
Dutchman speaking with an accent," and I laughed, for I could not help
it. The earl had a bottle nose and eyes like a lobster's, and made a
queer grimace when I said this boldly. Then he, too, laughed.

"So I've an accent, eh, when I speak French? You mean that?"

"I mean, sir, that however well one speaks a language not their own,
there is some accent that betrays them to those whose native tongue
they are speaking. A Dutchman, a Swiss, most Englishmen and many
Germans can all speak French, and 'twould pass outside France for
French. But a native of Touraine, or a Parisian, or any subject of
King Louis could not be deceived."

"True. Yet you or I could pass, say in Spain, for Frenchmen."

"I am sure."

"Humph! Well, we will see. And, perhaps, I will, as you say,
try you. Only if I do, 'twill be a risky service for you. A
lieutenant-colonelcy or a gibbet. A regiment or a bullet. How would
you like that?"

"I risk the bullet every moment that the Cuirassiers are in action,
and there is no lieutenant-colonelcy in the other scale if I escape. I
prefer the 'risky service,' when there is one. As for the gibbet;
well, one death is the same as another, pretty much, and the gibbet
will do as well as any other, so long as 'tis not at Tyburn--which
would be discreditable."

"You are a man of metal!" the Dutchman exclaimed, "and I like you,
although you don't approve of my accent. You will do. I want a man of
action, not a courtier----"

"I meant no rudeness," I interposed.

"Nor offered any. Tush! man, we Dutch are not courtiers, either. But
we are staunch. And I will give you a chance of being so. Come here
again to-morrow night. You shall have a throw for that colonelcy--or
that gibbet."

"My Lord, I am most grateful to you."

"Good day. Come to-morrow night. Now I must sleep." And he began to
divest himself of his wig and clothes, upon which I bowed and
withdrew.

Be sure I was there the next night at the same time, exchanging my
guard with Bertram Saxby, who, alas! was killed shortly afterward at
Ruremonde. The day I had passed in sleeping much, for I had a
suspicion that it was like enough Ginkell would send me on the service
he had spoken of that very night; might, indeed, order me to take
horse within the next hour, and I was desirous of starting fresh--of
beginning well. He was a rough creature, this Dutch general--or
English, rather, now!--and would be as apt as not to give me my
instructions as I entered the room, and bid me be miles away ere
midnight struck. Therefore I went prepared. Also my horse was ready in
its stall.

He was not alone when I did enter his quarters. Instead, he was seated
at a table covered with papers and charts, on the other side of which
there sat another gentleman, a man of about fifty, of strikingly
handsome features; a man who, in his day, I guessed, must have played
havoc with women's hearts--might, indeed, I should think, have done so
now had he been inclined that way. Those soft, rounded features, and
those eyes, themselves soft and liquid--I saw them clearly when he
lifted them to scan my face!--would, I guessed, make him irresistible
to the fair sex.

He spoke first after I had saluted the Earl of Athlone--and I observed
that, intuitively, he also returned my salute by a bend of his head,
so that I felt sure he was used to receive such courtesies wherever he
might be and in whatever company--then he said to the Dutchman, in a
voice that, though somewhat high, was as musical as a chime of bells.

"This is the gentleman, Ginkell?"

"This is the gentleman. A lieutenant of the Fourth Horse."

"Sir," said the other, "be seated," and he pointed with a beautifully
white hand to a chair by the table. "I desire some little conversation
with you. I am the Earl of Marlborough." And as he mentioned his name
he put out that white hand again and offered it to me, I taking it
with all imaginable respect. He was at this time the most conspicuous
subject of any sovereign in the world; his name was known from one end
of Europe to the other. Also it was the most feared, although he had
not yet put the crowning point to his glory nor risen to the highest
rank for which he was destined. But he was very near his zenith
now--his greatness almost at its height--and, I have often thought
since, there was something within him at this time which told him it
was close at hand. For he had an imperturbable calmness, an unfailing
quiet graciousness, as I witnessed afterward on many occasions, which
alone could be possessed by one who felt sure of himself. In every
word he spoke, in his every action, he proclaimed that he was certain
of, and master of, his destiny!

"My Lord Athlone tells me," he continued, when I was seated, the soft
voice flowing musically, "that you have the fitting aspirations of a
soldier--desire a regiment, and are willing to earn one."

I bowed and muttered that to succeed in my career was my one desire,
and that if I could win success I would spare no effort. Then he went
on:

"You speak French. That is good. Also Spanish. That, too, is good.
Likewise, I hear, can disguise your identity as an Englishman if
necessary. That is well, also. Mr. ----" and he took up a piece of
paper lying before him, on which I supposed my name was written, "Mr.
Crespin, I--we--are going to employ you on secret service. Are you
willing to undertake it?"

"I am willing, my Lord, to do anything that may advance my career.
Anything that may become a soldier."

"That is as it should be. The light in which to regard
matters--anything that may become a soldier. That before all. Well, to
be short, we are going to send you to Cadiz."

"To Cadiz, my Lord!" I said, unable to repress some slight feeling of
astonishment.

"Yes. To Cadiz, where you will not find another English soldier. Still
that will, perhaps, not matter very much, since we do not desire you
when there to appear as a soldier yourself. You are granted leave from
your regiment indefinitely while on this mission, and, at the first at
least, you will be a private gentleman. Also, when at Cadiz, you will
please to be anything but an _English_ gentleman."

"Or a Dutch one," put in the other earl with a guttural laugh.
"Therefore, assume not the Dutch accent."

Evidently my Lord Marlborough did not know of the joke underlying this
remark, since he went on:

"As a Frenchman you will have the best chance. Or, perhaps, as a Swiss
merchant. But that we leave to you. What you have to do is to get to
Cadiz, and, when there, to pass as some one, neither English nor
Dutch, who is engaged in ordinary mercantile pursuits. Then when the
fleet comes in----"

"The fleet, my Lord!"

"Yes. The English fleet. I should tell you--I must make myself clear.
A large fleet under Admirals Rooke and Hopson, as well as some Dutch
admirals, are about to besiege Cadiz. They will shortly sail from
Portsmouth, as we have advices, and it is almost a certainty that they
will succeed in gaining possession of the island, which is Cadiz. That
will be of immense service to us, since, while we are fighting King
Louis in the north, the Duke of Ormond, who goes out in that fleet in
command of between thirteen and fourteen thousand men, will be able to
attack the Duke of Anjou, or, as he now calls himself, King Philip V
of Spain, in the south. But that is not all. We are not sending you
there to add one more strong right arm to His Grace's forces--we could
utilize that here, Mr. Crespin," and he bowed courteously, "but
because we wish you to convey a message to him and the admirals."

I, too, bowed again, and expressed by my manner that I was listening
most attentively, while the earl continued:

"The message is this: We have received information from a sure source
that the galleons now on their way back to Spain from the Indies have
altered their plan of arrival because they, in their turn, have been
informed in some way, by some spy or traitor, that this expedition
will sail from England. Therefore they will not go near Cadiz. But the
spot to which they will proceed is Vigo, in the north. Now," and he
rose as he spoke, and stood in front of the empty fireplace, "your
business will be to convey this intelligence to Sir George Rooke and
those under him, and I need not tell you that you are like enough to
encounter dangers in so conveying it. Are you prepared to undertake
them?"



CHAPTER III.

I FIND A SHIP.


"You see," the Earl of Marlborough continued, while Ginkell and I
stood on either side of him, "that neither your risks nor your
difficulties will be light. To begin with, you must pass as a
Frenchman, or, at least, not an Englishman, for Cadiz, like all
Spanish ports and towns, will not permit of any being there.
Therefore, your only way to get into it is to be no Englishman. Now,
how, Mr. Crespin, would you suggest reaching the place and obtaining
entry? It is far away."

I thought a moment on this; then I said:

"But Portugal, my lord, is not closed to us. That country has not yet
thrown in its lot with either France or Austria."

"That is true. And the southern frontier of Portugal is very near to
Spain--to Cadiz. You mean that?"

"Yes. I could proceed to the frontier of Portugal, could perhaps get
by sea to Tavira--then, as a Frenchman, cross into Spain, and so to
Cadiz."

He pondered a little on this, then said: "Yes, the idea is feasible.
Only, how to go to Tavira?" and he bent over a chart lying on the
table, and regarded it fixedly as he spoke. "How to do that?" running
his finger down the coast line of Portugal as he spoke, and then up
again as far north as the Netherlands, stopping at Rotterdam.

"All traffic is closed," he muttered, "between Spain and Holland now,
otherwise there would be countless vessels passing between Rotterdam
and Cadiz which would doubtless put you ashore on the Portuguese
coast. But now--now--there will scarce be any."

Ginkell had been called away by one of his aides-de-camp as his
lordship bent over the chart and mused upon it, or, doubtless, his
astute Dutch mind might have suggested some way out of the difficulty
that stared us in the face; but even as we pondered over the sheet an
idea occurred to me.

"My Lord," I said, "may I suggest this: That I should make my way to
Rotterdam to begin with--by some chance there may be a ship going
south--through some part of the bay at least. But even if it is not
so--if all traffic is stopped--why then I could at least get to
England, might arrive there before the fleet sails for Cadiz."

"Nay," his Lordship interrupted; "you would be too late. They may have
sailed by now."

"I know not what further to propose, my Lord."

"We must risk it," he said, promptly. "Chance your finding some vessel
by which you can proceed, even if only part of the way. The hope is a
poor one, yet 'tis worth catching at. King Louis wants the money those
galleons are bringing; his coffers are empty; he hardly knows where to
turn for the wherewithal to pay his and his grandson's men; we want
it, too, if we can get it. Above all, we want to prevent the wealth
falling into the hands of Spain, which now means France. Mr. Crespin,
on an almost forlorn chance you must start for Rotterdam."

"When shall I go, my Lord? To-night? At once?"

"You are ready?"

"I am ready."

"Good! You have the successful soldier's qualities. Yes, you must go
at once--at once."

               *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

That night I was on the road for Rotterdam, which is fifty leagues
and more to the northeast of Kaiserswerth, so that I had a fair good
ride before me ere I reached what might prove to be the true outset of
my journey.

I did not go alone, however, since at this time I rode in the company
of my Lord Marlborough, who was returning to the Hague, to which he
had come in March as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to
the States General, as well as Captain General of all Her Majesty's
forces, both at home and abroad. Also, his Lordship had been chosen to
command the whole of the allied forces combined against the King of
France and his grandson, the King of Spain, whom we regarded only as
the Duke of Anjou; and he was now making all preparations for that
great campaign, which was already opened, and was soon to be pushed on
with extreme vigour and with such success that at last the power and
might of Louis were quite crushed and broken. This concerns not me,
however, at present.

Nor did my long ride in company with his Lordship and a brilliant
staff offer any great incident. Suffice it, therefore, if I say that
on the evening of the second day from my setting out, and fifty hours
after I had quitted Kaiserswerth, I rode into Rotterdam, and, finding
a bed for the night at the "Indian Coffee House," put up there.

This I did not do, however, without some difficulty, since, at this
time, Rotterdam was full of all kinds of people from almost every part
of Europe, excepting always France and Spain, against the natives of
which countries very strict laws for their expulsion had been passed
since the declaration of war which was made conjointly by the Queen,
the Emperor and the States General, against those two countries on the
4th of May of this year, 1702.

But of other peoples the town was, as I say, full. In the river there
lay coasting vessels, deep sea vessels, merchant ships, indeed every
kind of craft almost that goes out to sea, and belonging to England,
to Holland, to Denmark and other lands. Also there were to be seen
innumerable French vessels; but these were prizes which had been
dragged in after being taken prisoners at sea, and would be disposed
of shortly, as well as their goods and merchandise, by the Dyke-Grauf,
or high bailiff. And of several of these ships, the captains and the
seamen, as well as in many cases the passengers who were belated on
their journeys, were all ashore helping to fill up the inns and
taverns. Also troops were quartered about everywhere, these being not
only the Dutch, or natives, who were preparing to go forward to the
Hague and thence to wheresoever my Lord Marlborough should direct, but
also many of our own, brought over by our great ships of war to
Helvetsluys, and, themselves, on their way to serve under his command.

The room, therefore, which I got at the Indian Coffee House, was none
of the best, yet, since I was a soldier, I made shift with it very
well, and in other ways the place was convenient enough for my
purpose. It may be, indeed, that I could scarce have selected a better
house at which to stop, seeing that the "ordinary" below was the one
most patronized by the merchant captains who flocked in daily for
their dinner, and for the conversation and smoking and drinking which
succeeded that meal.

And now, so that I shall arrive as soon as may be at the description
of all that befell me, and was the outcome of the mission which the
Earl of Marlborough confided to me, let me set down at once that it
was not long before I, by great good chance, stumbled on that very
opportunity which I desired, and which was so necessary to the
accomplishment of what his Lordship wanted.

This is how it happened:

After the ordinary, at which I myself took a seat every day at one
o'clock, the drinking and the smoking and the conversation began, as I
have said, and none, however strange they might be at first to the
customers of the place, could be there long without the making of
acquaintances; for all the talk ran on the one subject in which all
were interested and absorbed, namely, the now declared war and the
fighting which had been done, and was also to do; on the stoppage to
trade and ruin to business that must occur, and such like. And I can
tell you that many an honest sea captain and many a burly Rotterdam
burgher drank down his schnapps or his potato brandy or seidel of
brown beer, as his taste might be, while heaving also of sighs, or
muttering pious exclamations or terrible curses--also as his taste
might direct--at the threatened ruin, and also at the fear which
gripped his heart, that soon he would not have the wherewithal left
for even these gratifications, humble as they were.

"Curse the war!" said one, to whom I had spoken more than once. He
was, indeed, my captain of _La Mouche Noire_, in whose ship you have
already found me; "it means desolation for me and mine if it lasts,
hunger and shoelessness for my wife and little ones at home in
Shadwell. Above all I curse the ambition of the French king, who has
plunged all Europe into it; placed all honest men 'twixt hawk and
buzzard, as to fortune. Curse him, I say."

"Ay, gurse him!" chimed in a fat Friesslander captain, who sat at his
elbow. "Gurse him, I say, too. I was now choost maging for Chava;
should have peen out of the riffer mit meine vreight if his vleet had
not gorne along mit that von gursed Chean Part in it, ven I had to put
pack. And here I am mit all mein goots----"

"And here am I, mit all mein!" broke in my captain, a-laughing in
spite of himself, "yet--yet I know not if I will not make a push for
it. I think ever of the home at Shadwell and the little ones. I could
not abide to think also of their calling for bread, and of their
mother having none to give them. Yet 'twill come to that ere long. And
the war may last for years."

"Where were you for?" I asked him, using indeed what had become a set
phrase in my mouth since I had consorted with all these sailors. For
by enquiring of each one with whom I conversed what his destination
had been, or would be if he had courage to risk the high seas outside,
I thought that at last I might strike upon one whose way was mine. For
all were not afraid to go forth; indeed there was scarcely a dark
night in which one or two did not get down the river and sneak out
into the open, thinking that, when there, there was a chance of
escaping the French ships of war and privateers and of reaching their
destination, while by remaining here there was no chance of earning a
brass farthing. And I had known of several ships going out since I had
been in Rotterdam, only they were of no use to me. One was bound for
Archangel, another one for the Indies, a third for our colony of
Massachusetts.

"I," said my captain, whose name I knew afterward to be Tandy. "I? Oh,
I was freighted for Cadiz. But of course, that can never be now. Yet
if I could but get away I might do much with my goods. At Lisbon they
would sell well, or even farther south. Though, 'tis true, there's not
much money below that till one comes to Spain."

Though I had thought the time must come when I should hear one of
these sailors say that Cadiz was, or had been, his road (I knew that
if it did not come soon 'twould be no good for me, and I might as well
make my way back to my regiment), yet now, when I did so hear it, I
almost started with joyful surprise. Yet even in so hearing, what had
I gained? The captain had but said that at one time, before the
declaration of hostilities, he had been ready to sail for Cadiz. He
did not say that at this moment--almost three months later--he was
still likely to go. Instead, had said it could never be now.

But--for it meant much to me!--my heart beat a little faster as I
asked, leaning across the beer and spirit-slopped table to him:

"Do you ever on your cruises carry passengers?"

He gave me a quick glance. I read it to mean that he would be glad to
know what my object could be in such a question, put seriously and in
a somewhat low tone, as though not intended for other people's ears.
Then he said:

"Oh! ay! I carry 'em, when I can get 'em, if they will pay fairly. But
who do you think would trust themselves aboard a coaster now, in such
times as these, unless she was under convoy of one of the queen's
ships in company with others?"

"I would," I replied, leaning even a little more forward than before,
and speaking in a still lower tone. "I would, to get as near to Cadiz
as might be. And pay well, too."

He did not speak for a moment; instead, he glanced his eye over me as
though scanning my outward gear for proof of what I had said as to
paying handsomely. Yet I did not fear this scrutiny, for I was well
enough appareled at all points, having when I left Venloo put off my
uniform and donned a very fair riding suit of blue cloth, well faced
and passemented; also my plain sword and wig were of the best, such as
befitted a gentleman.

"Pay well," he said, when he had concluded this inspection, "pay well.
Humph! That might induce me, since I am like enough to lose my goods
ere I sight Cape Finisterre. Pay well. You mean it? Well, now see!
What would you pay? Come. A fancy price? To be put as near Cadiz as
can be compassed. And no questions asked," and he winked at me so that
I wondered what he took me for. Later on I found that he supposed me
to be one of the many spies in the pay of France, who, because they
had both the English and French tongue, were continually passing from
one part of the continent of Europe to another.

"As to the questions," I replied, "you might ask as many as you
desired. They would not be answered. As to the pay, what will you
take?"

He thought a moment, and again his eye ranged over my habiliments;
then he said, sharply:

"A hundred guineas. Fifty down, on the nail, the rest at the end of
the journey. You to take all risks. That is, I mean, even though we
get no further than the mouth of the Scheldt--which is like enough.
Say, will you give it?"

"'Tis, indeed, a fancy price, yet, on conditions, yes," I answered
promptly.

"Those conditions being----"

"That you weigh within twenty-four hours; that if we are chased you
run, or even fight, till there is no further hope, and that if we
escape capture you approach to the nearest point to Cadiz possible.
Tavira to be that point."

He got up and went out of the door into the street, and I saw him
looking up into the heavens at the clouds passing beneath the sun.
Then he came back and resumed his seat, after which he said:

"If the wind keeps as 'tis now I will weigh ere twenty-four hours are
past. The conditions to be as you say. And the fifty guineas to be in
my hands ere we up anchor. They," he added, half to himself, "will be
something for the home even though I lose my ship."

And this being settled and all arrangements concluded, we went off in
his boat, which was lying at the steps of the Boömjes, to see the
ship. Then, I having selected my cabin out of two which he had
unoccupied, returned to the coffee house to write my Lord Marlborough
word of what I had done, to dispose of my horse--which I was sorry
enough to do, since it was a good, faithful beast that had carried me
well; yet there was no use in keeping it, I not knowing if I should
ever see Rotterdam again--to make one or two other preparations, and
to write to my mother at home.

As to the hundred guineas--great as the demand was, I felt justified
in paying it, since, if I succeeded in my task, the result might be
splendid for England. Also I had a sufficiency of money with me, the
earl having ordered two hundred guineas to be given me out of the
regimental chest (which was pretty full, seeing that at Venloo eight
great chests of French gold were taken possession of by us on gaining
the town), and had also given me bills for three hundred more guineas,
signed by his own hand, which the money changers would be only too
glad to pay anywhere. And, besides this, I had some money of my own,
and should have more from the sale of the horse.

There remains one thing, however, to mention, which I have almost
forgot to set down, namely, that at the Indian Coffee House I had
given my name accurately, his Lordship, who was perfectly acquainted
with France--indeed, he had once served her under Turenne, in his
capacity of colonel of the "English Regiment" sent out by King Charles
the Second--having said that Crespin was as much a French as an
English name. And although no questions had as yet been asked as to
what my business was, there being, indeed, none who had any right or
title to so ask, I had resolved that, if necessary, I would do this:
namely, here in Holland I would be English, since, at the time, and we
being allies, it was almost one and the same thing; and that in Spain
I would be French, which was also at the period one and the same
thing. And if we were to be captured by any of Louis' privateers or
ships of war also I should be French, in that case possibly a
Canadian, to account for any strangeness in my accent.

And with this all fixed in my mind I made my preparations for going to
sea in _La Mouche Noire_.



CHAPTER IV.

AN ESCAPE.


The wind shifted never a point, so that, ere sunset the next day, we
were well down the river and nearing the mouth, while already ahead of
us we could see the waves of the North Sea tumbling about. Also, we
could see something else, that we could have done very well without,
namely, the topmasts of a great frigate lying about three miles off
the coast, or rather cruising about and keeping off and on, the vessel
being doubtless one of Louis' warships, bent on intercepting anything
that came out of the river.

"Yet," said Captain Tandy, as he stood on the poop and regarded her
through his perspective glass, "she will not catch us. Let but the
night fall, and out we go, while, thanks to the Frenchman who built
our little barky, we can keep so well in that she can never come anear
us."

"She can come near enough, though, to send a round shot or two into
our side," I hazarded, "if she sees our lights."

"She won't see our lights," the captain made answer, and again he
indulged in that habit which seemed a common one with him--he winked
at me; a steady, solemn kind of a wink, that, properly understood,
conveyed a good deal. And, having favoured me with it, he gave orders
that the light sail under which we had come down the river should be
taken in, and, this done, we lay off the little isle of Rosenberg,
which here breaks the Maas in two, until nightfall.

And now it was that Tandy gave me a piece of information which, at
first, I received with anything but satisfaction; the information, to
wit, that at the last moment almost--at eleven o'clock in the morning,
and before I had come on board--he had been fortunate enough to get
another passenger, this passenger being the man Carstairs--or
Cuddiford, as he came to consider him--whom, at the opening of this
narrative, you have seen in a delirium.

"I could not refuse the chance, Mr. Crespin," he said, for he knew
my name by now. "Things are too ill with me, owing to this accursed
fresh war, for me to throw guineas away. So when his blackamoor
accosted me at the 'Indian' and said that he heard I was going a
voyage south--God, He knows how these things leak out, since I had
never spoke a word of my intention, though some of the men, or the
ship's chandler, of whom I bought last night, may have done so--and
would I take his master and him? I was impelled to do it! There are
the wife and the children at home."

"And have you got another hundred guineas from him?" I asked.

"Ay, for him and the black. But they will not trouble you. The old
gentleman--who seems to be something like a minister--tells me he is
not well, and will not quit his cabin. The negro will berth near him;
they will not interfere with you."

"Do they know there is another passenger aboard?"

"I have not spoken to the old man; maybe, however, some of the sailors
may have told the servant. Yet none know your name; but I--it can be
kept secret an you wish." And again he winked at me, thinking, of
course, as he had done before, that my business was of a ticklish
nature, as indeed it was, though not quite that which he supposed.
Nay, he felt very sure it must be so, since otherwise he would have
got no hundred guineas out of me for such a passage.

"I do not wish it known," I said. "It _must_ be kept secret. Also my
country. There must be no talking."

"Never fear," he replied. "I know nothing. And I do not converse with
the men, most of whom are Hollanders, since I had to pick them up in a
hurry. As for the old man, you need not see him; and, if you do, you
can keep your own counsel, I take it."

I answered that I could very well do that; after which the captain
left me--for now the night had come upon us, dark and dense, except
for the stars, and we were about to run out into the open. But even as
I watched the men making sail, and felt the little ship running
through the water beneath me--I could soon hear her fore foot gliding
through it with a sharp ripple that resembled the slitting of silk--I
wished that those other passengers had not come aboard, that I could
have made the cruise alone.

Yet we were aboard, he and I, and there was no help for it; it must be
endured. But still I could not help wondering what any old minister
should want to be making such a journey as this for; especially
wondered, also, why he should be attended by a black servant; and why,
again, it should be worth his while to pay a hundred guineas for the
passage.

But you know now as well as I do that this man was no minister, but
rather, if Tandy's surmises were right, some villainous old filibuster
who had lived through evil days and known evil spirits; my meditations
are, therefore, of no great import. Rather let me get on to what was
the outcome of my journey.

When we were at sea we showed no light at all; no! not at foremast,
main or mizzen; so that I very well understood now why the captain had
winked as he said that the Frenchman, if she was that, would not see
us; and especially I understood it when, on going below, I found that
the cabin windows were fastened with dead lights so that no ray could
steal out from them. Also, the hatches were over the companions so
that neither could any light ascend from below. In truth, as we
slapped along under the stiff northeast breeze that blew off the
Holland coast, we seemed more like some dark flying spectre of the
night than a ship, and I could not but wonder to myself what we should
be taken for if seen by any passer-by. Yet, had I only known, there
were at that time hundreds of ships passing about in all these waters
in the same manner--French ships avoiding the English war vessels, and
English and Dutch avoiding the French war vessels; and--which,
perhaps, it was full as well I did not know--sometimes two of them
came into contact with each other, after which neither was ever more
heard of. Only, in different ports there were weeping women and
children left, who--sometimes for years!--prayed for the day to come
when the wanderers might return, they never knowing that, instead of
those poor toilers of the sea having been made prisoners (as they
hoped) who would at last be exchanged, they were lying at the bottom
of the sea.

"'Tis a gay minister, at any rate," I said to Captain Tandy when I
returned to the deck--for all was so stuffy down below, owing to the
closing up of every ingress for the fresh air, that I could not remain
there--"and he at least seems not to mind the heat."

"What is he doing, then?" the captain asked.

"He is singing a little," I replied, "and through the half open door
of his cabin one may hear the clinking of bottle against glass. A
merry heart."

"The fiend seize his mirth! I hope he will not make too much turmoil,
nor set the ship afire. If he does we shall be seen easy enough."

I hoped so, too, and as each night the old man waxed more noisy and
the clink of the bottle was heard continuously--until at last his
drinking culminated as I have written--the fear which the captain had
expressed took great hold of me, so that I could scarce sleep at all.
Yet those fears were not realized, the Lord be praised! or I should
scarcely be penning this narrative now.

The first night passed and, as 'twas summer, the dawn soon came, by
which time we were running a little more out to sea, though--since to
our regret we saw that the frigate was on our beam instead of being
left far behind, as we had hoped would be the case--we now sailed
under false colours. Therefore at our peak there flew at this
time the lilies of France, and not our own English flag. Yet 'twas
necessary--imperative, indeed--that such should be the case if we
would escape capture. And even those despised lilies might not save us
from that. If the frigate, which we knew by this time to be a ship of
war, since her sides were pierced three tiers deep for cannon, and on
her deck we could observe soldiers, suspected for a moment those
colours to be false she would slap a shot at us; the first, perhaps,
across our bows only, but the second into our waist, or, if that
missed, then the third, which would doubtless do our office for us.

At present, however, she did nothing, only held on steadily on her
course, which nevertheless was ominous enough, for this action told
plainly that she had seen us leave the river, or she would have
remained luffing about there still. And, also, she must have known we
were not French, for what French ship would have been allowed to come
out of the Maas as we had come?

She did nothing, I have said; yet was not that sleuth-like following
of hers something? Did it not expound the thoughts of her captain as
plainly as though he had uttered them in so many words? Did it not
tell that he was in doubt as to who and what we were; that he set off
against the suspicious fact of our having quitted the river, which
bristled with the enemies of France, the other facts, namely, that our
ship was built French fashion, that maybe he could read her French
name on her stern, and that she flew the French flag?

Yet what puzzled us more than aught else was, how had the frigate
known that we had so got out? The night had been dark and black, and
we showed no lights.

Still she knew it.

The day drew on and, with it, the sea abated a little, so that the
tumbling waves, which had often obscured the frigate from us for some
time, and, doubtless, us from it, became smoother, and Tandy, who had
never taken his eye off the great ship, turned round and gave now an
order to the men to hoist more sail. Also another to the man at the
wheel to run in a point.

Then he came to where I was standing, and said:

"She draws a little nearer; I fear they will bring us to. Ha! as I
thought." And even as he spoke there came a puff from the frigate's
side; a moment later the report of a gun; another minute, and, hopping
along the waves went a big round shot, some fifty yards ahead of us.

"What will you do?" I asked the captain. "The next will not be so far
ahead."

"Run for it," he said. "They may not hit us--short of a broadside--and
if I can get in another mile or so they cannot follow. Starboard, you
below," he called out again to the man at the wheel, and once more
bellowed his orders to the men aloft.

This brought the ship's head straight for where the land was--we could
see it plain enough with the naked eye, lying flat and low, ten miles
away--also it brought our stern to the frigate, so that we presented
nothing but that to them--a breadth of no more than between twenty and
twenty-five feet.

"'Twill take good shooting to hit us this way," said Tandy very
coolly. "Yet, see, they mean to attempt it."

That this was so, one could perceive in a moment; then came three
puffs, one after the other, from their upper tier; then the three
reports; then the balls hurtling along on either side of us, one just
grazing our larboard yard-arm--we saw the splinters fly like
feathers!--the others close enough, but doing no harm.

"Shoot, and be damned to you," muttered Tandy; "another ten minutes
more, and you can come no further. Look," and he pointed ahead of us
to where I saw, a mile off, the water crisping and foaming over a
shoal bank, "'tis eight miles outside Blankenberg, and is called 'The
Devil's Bolster.' And we can get inside it, and they cannot." Then
again he bellowed fresh orders, which even I, a landsman, understood
well enough, or, at least, their purport. They were to enable us to
get round and inside the reef, and so place it between us and the
frigate.

They saw our move as soon as it was made, however, whereupon the
firing from their gun-ports grew hotter, the balls rattling about us
now in a manner that made me fear the ship must be struck ere long;
nay, she was struck once, a round shot catching her on her starboard
quarter and tearing off her sheathing in a long strip. Yet, at
present, that was all the harm she had got, excepting that her mizzen
shroud was cut in half.

But now we were ahead of the reef and about half a mile off it; ten
minutes later we were inside it, and, the frigate being able to
advance no nearer because of her great draught, we were safe. They
might shoot, as the captain said, and be damned to them; but shoot as
much as they chose, they were not very like to hit us, since we were
out of range. We were well in sight of each other, however, the reef
lying like a low barricade betwixt us, and I could not but laugh at
the contempt which the sturdy Dutch sailors we had on board testified
for the discomfited Frenchmen. There were three of them at work on the
fo'castle head at the time the frigate left off her firing, and no
sooner did she do so and begin to back her sails to leave us in
peace--though doubtless she meant lying off in wait for us when we
should creep out--than these great Hollanders formed themselves into a
sort of dance figure, and commenced capering and skipping about, with
derisive gestures made at the great ship. And as we could see them
regarding us through their glasses, by using our own, we knew very
well that they saw these gestures of contempt. Tandy, however, soon
put a stop to these, for, said he, "They may lie out there a week
waiting for us, and if then they catch us, they will not forget. And
'twill go all the harder with us for our scorn. Peace, fools, desist."
Whereon the men left off their gibes.

"Lie out there a week," thinks I to myself. "Fore Gad! I trust that
may not be so. For if they do, and one delay follows another, heaven
knows when I shall see Cadiz. Too late, anyway, to send the fleet
after the galleons, who will, I fear, be in and unloaded long before
the admiral can get up to Vigo."

Yet, as luck would have it, the frigate was not to lie there very
long--not even so long as an hour. For, see, now, how Providence did
intervene to help me on my way, and to remove at least that one
obstacle to my going forward on my journey.

Scarce had those lusty Dutch sailors been ordered off the head by
Tandy than, as I was turning away from laughing at them, my attention
was called back by a shout from the same quarter, and on looking
round, I saw two of them spring up the ladder again to the very spot
they had left, and begin pointing eagerly away beyond the frigate. And
following their glances and pointing, this is what I saw:

Two other great ships looming large on the seascape, rising rapidly
above the water, carrying all their canvas, coming on at a mighty
rate. Two great ships sailing very free but near together, which in a
few moments spread apart, so that they put me in mind of some huge
bird opening of its wings--I know not why, yet so it was!--and then
came on at some distance from each other, their vast black hulls
rising every moment, and soon the foam becoming visible beneath their
bows as their fore feet flung it asunder.

"Down with that rag," shouted Tandy, squinting up at the lilies on our
peak, and hardly shifting his perspective glass to do so. "Down with
it, and up with our own. My word! The Frenchman will get a full meal
now. Look at their royal masts and the flag of England flying on
them."

I did look, and, after a hasty glance, at something else--the French
frigate, our late pursuer!

Be very sure that she had seen those two avengers coming up in that
fair breeze--also that she was making frantic efforts to escape. But
her sails were all laid aback as I have said, also, she was off the
wind. The glasses showed the confusion that prevailed on board her.
And she had drifted so near the shoal that her danger was great.
Unless she boldly ran out to meet those two queen's ships she would be
on it ere long, and that was what she dared not do.

For now from the others we saw the puff of smoke, like white balls of
wool, come forth; we saw the spits of flame; saw the Frenchman's
mainmast go down five minutes later, and hang over the side nearest us
like some wounded creature all entangled in a net. And still she
neared the shoal, and still the white balls puffed out till they made
a long fleecy line, through which the red flames darted; borne on the
air we heard shouts and curses; amidst the roaring of the English
cannon firing on the helpless, stricken thing, we heard another sound,
a grinding, crashing sound, and we knew she was on the bank. Then saw
above, at her mizzen, the French flag pulled down upon the cap, and
heard through their trumpets their loud calls for assistance from the
conquerors.

"Humph! Humph!" said Tandy. "Old Lewis," for so he spoke of him, "has
got one ship the less--that's all. Loose the foresheet, there, my
lads; stand by the mainsail halyards. Good. That's it; all together!"

And away once more we went.



CHAPTER V.

THE ENGLISH SHIPS OF WAR.


After that we met with no further trouble or interference, not even,
so far as we knew, being passed by anything of more importance than a
few small carrying craft similar to ourselves, who bore away from us
on sighting with as much rapidity as we were prepared to bear away
from them, since in those days, and for long after, no ship passing
another at sea but dreaded it as though it was the Evil One himself;
dreaded that the cabin windows, with their clean dimity cloths run
across them, might be, in truth, nothing but masked gun ports with the
nozzles of the cannon close up against the other side of those running
curtains; dreaded, also, that, behind the bales of goods piled up in
the waist, might be lurking scores of men, armed to the teeth, and
ready for boarding!

Also, as though to favour us--or me, who needed to get to the end of
my journey as soon as might be--the wind blew fresh and strong abaft
us from the north, so that by the evening of the fifth day from
leaving Rotterdam we were drawing well to our journey's end, and were,
in fact, rounding Cape St. Vincent, keeping in so near the coast that
we could not only see the cruel rocks that jut out here like the teeth
of some sea monster, but also the old monks sitting sunning themselves
in front of their monastery above the cliffs.

And now it was at that time, and when we were getting very near to
Tavira--which must be our journey's end, unless the English fleet, of
which Lord Marlborough had spoken, was already into Cadiz, and masters
of the place--that the old man who called himself Carstairs was taken
with his delirium, of which I have written already.

But, as also I have told, he was better the next day, by noon of which
we were well into the Bay of Lagos, and running for Cape Santa Maria;
and 'twas then that he told me that story of his having much business
to attend to at Cadiz, and that, the galleons being now due there, he
was on his way to meet them.

That I laughed in my sleeve at the fool's errand on which this old man
had come--this old man, who had been a thieving buccaneer, if his
wanderings and Tandy's suspicions were true--you may well believe.
Also, I could not help but fall a-wondering how he would feel if, on
nearing Tavira, we learnt that our countrymen were masters of Cadiz.
For then he would do no business with his precious galleons, even
should my Lord Marlborough be wrong--which, however, from the sure
way in which he had spoken, I did not think was very like to be the
case--and even if they had made for Cadiz, since they would at once be
seized upon.

It was, however, of extreme misfortune that just at this time when all
was so well for my chances, and when we were nearing our destination,
the weather should have seen fit to undergo a sudden change, and that
not only did the wind shift, but all the summer clearness of the back
end of this fair August month should have departed. Indeed, so strange
a change came over the elements that we knew not what to make of it.
Up to now the heat had been great, so great, indeed, that I--who could
neither endure the stuffiness of my cabin below nor the continual
going and coming of the negro in the gangway which separated his
master's cabin from mine, nor the stench of some drugs the old man was
continually taking--had been sleeping on the deck. But now the tempest
became so violent that I was forced to retreat back to the cabin, to
bear the closeness as best I might, to hear the flappings of the black
creature's great feet on the wooden floor at all hours of the night,
and, sometimes again, the yowlings of the old man for drink.

For with the shifting of the wind to the east, or rather east by
south, a terrible storm had come upon us; across the sea it howled and
tore, buffeting our ship sorely and causing such destruction that it
seemed like enough each moment that we should go to the bottom, and
this in spite of every precaution being taken, even to striking our
topmasts. Also we lay over so much to our starboard, and for so long,
that again and again it seemed as though we should never right, while
as we thus lay, the sea poured into us from port and scuttle. But what
was worse for me--or would be worse if we lived through the tempest we
were now in the midst of--we were being blown not only off our course,
but back again the very way we had come, and out into the western
ocean, so that to all else there had to be added the waste of most
precious time. Time that, in my case, was golden!

Meanwhile Carstairs, who during the whole of our passage from
Rotterdam had carefully kept his cabin--not even coming on deck during
the time we were chased by the French frigate nor, later, when the two
ships of war had battered and driven her on to the shoal bank--now saw
fit to appear on deck and to take a keen interest in all that was
going on around.

"A brave storm," he said, shrieking the words in my ear--I having at
last struggled up again to get air--amidst the howling of the wind and
the fall of the sea upon our deck, each wave sounding as though a
mountain had fallen, "a brave storm! Ha! I have seen a-many, yet I
know not if ever one worse than this."

"What think you of our chances?" I bawled back at him, while I noticed
that his eye was brighter and clearer than I had seen it before, and
that in his face there was some colour.

"We shall do very well," he answered, "having borne up till now. That
fellow knows his work," and he nodded toward where Tandy was engaged
in getting the foreyard swayed up. "We shall do."

His words were indeed prophetic, for not an hour after he had uttered
them the wind shifted once more, coming now full from the south, which
was, however, of all directions the very one we would not have had it
in; and with the change the sea went down rapidly, so that in still
another hour the waves, instead of breaking over our decks, only
slapped heavily against the ship's sides, while the vessel itself
wallowed terribly amongst them. Yet so far we were saved from worse.

But now to this there succeeded still another change--the sea began to
smoke as though it were afire; from it there rose a cold steaming
vapour, and soon we could not see twenty yards ahead of us, nor was
the man at the wheel able to see beyond the fore-hatch. So that now we
could not move in any direction for fear of what might be near, and
were forced to burn lights and fire guns at intervals to give notice
of our whereabouts in chance of passers by.

Again, however--this time late at night--the elements changed, the
mist and fog thinned somewhat and rose some feet from the surface of
the now almost tranquil sea; it was at last possible to look ahead
somewhat, though not possible to proceed, even if the light wind which
blew beneath the fog would have taken us the way we desired to go.

And still the mist cleared so that we could see a mile--or two
miles--around, and then we observed a sight that none of us could
comprehend, not even Cuddiford, who whispered once to himself, though
I heard him plain enough, "What in the name of the devil does it mean?
What? What?"

Afar off, on our starboard quarter, we saw in the darkness of the
night--there was no moon--innumerable lights dotting the sea; long
lines of light such as tiers of ports will emit from ships, also
lights higher up, as though on mastheads and yards--numbers of them,
some scores each in their cluster.

Cuddiford's voice sounded in my ear. Cuddiford's finger was laid on my
arm.

"You understand?" he asked.

"No."

"'Tis some great fleet."

I started--hardly could I repress that start or prevent myself from
exclaiming: "The English fleet for Cadiz!"

Yet even as I did so, the water rippled on the bows where we were
standing. It sounded as if those ripples blended with the man's voice
and made a chuckling laugh.

"A large fleet," he said slowly, "leaving Spain and making for the
open."

Then a moment later he was gone from my side.

Leaving Spain and making for the open! What then did that mean?
"Leaving Spain and making for the open!" I repeated to myself again.
Was that true? And to assure myself I leant further forward into the
night--as though half a yard nearer to those passing lights would
assist my sight!--and peered at those countless clusters.

Was it the English fleet that was leaving Spain? Whether that was or
not--whether 'twas in truth the English fleet or not--it _was_ leaving
Spain; I could understand that. We in our ship were almost stationary;
that body was rapidly passing out to sea.

What did it mean? Perhaps that the English had done their
work--destroyed Cadiz. I did not know if such were possible, but
thought it might be so. Perhaps that the galleons had been on their
way in, after all, and had been warned of those who were there before
them, and so had turned tail and fled.

Yet I feared--became maddened and distraught almost at the very
idea--that, having done their work, my countrymen should have left the
place, gone out to the open on, perhaps, their way back to England.
Became maddened because, if such were the case, there was no
opportunity left me of advising them about the galleons. While, on the
other hand, if that passing fleet was in truth the galleons, then were
they saved, since never would they come near the coast of Spain again
while British ships remained there. Rather would they keep the open
for months, rather put back again to the Indies than run themselves
into the lion's jaws.

Truly I was sore distressed in pondering over all this; truly my
chance of promotion seemed very far off now. Yet I had one
consolation: I had done my best; it was not my fault.

That night, to make things more unpleasant than they already
were--and to me it seemed that nothing more was wanting to aid my
melancholy!--Cuddiford began his drinkings and carousals again,
shutting off himself with the negro in his cabin, from whence shortly
issued the sounds of glasses clinking, of snatches of songs--in which
the black joined--of halloaing and of toasts and other things. Ribald
bawlings, too, of a song of which I could catch only a few words now
and again, but which seemed to be about a mouse which had escaped from
a trap and also from a great fierce cat ready to pounce on it. Then,
once more, clappings and clinkings of glasses together--an intolerable
noise, be sure!--and presently, with an oath, confusion drank to
England.

"So," thinks I, "my gentleman, that is how you feel, is it? Confusion
to England! Who and what are you, then, in the devil's name? Spy of
France or Spain, besides being retired filibuster, or what? Confusion
to England, eh?"

And even as I thought this and heard his evil toast, I determined to
hear more. Whereon I slipped quietly off my bunk, got out into the
gangway and listened across it to his cabin opposite, feeling very
sure as I did so that both he and his black imagined I was up on deck.

Then I heard him say, going on, evidently, with a phrase he had begun:

"Wherefore, I tell you, my lily, my white pearl, that those accursed
seamen and soldiers--this Rooke, who chased me once so that I lost
all my goods in my flight--are tricked, hoodwinked, _embustera;
flanqués comme une centaine d'escargots!_ Done for--and so is this
white-livered Englishman over there in t'other cabin--who I do believe
is an English spy. Ho! that we had him in Maracaibo or Guayaquil.
Hein! Hey! my snowball?"

"Hoop! Hoop!" grunted the brute, his companion. "Hoop! Maracaibo!
Hoop! But, but, John"--"John," thinks I, "and to his master!"--"don't
speak so loud. Perhaps they hear you."

"Let them hear and be damned to them. What care I?" Yet still he
lowered his voice, though not so low but what I made out his words:

"Fitted out a fleet, did they, to intercept the galleons? Oh! the
beautiful galleons! Oh! the sweet and lovely galleons! Oh, my
beautiful _Neustra Senora de Mercedes_. You remember how she sits on
the water like a swan, Cæsar? And the beautiful _Santa Susanna!_ What
ships! what lading! Oh! I heard it all in London. I know. Thought they
would catch 'em in Cadiz, did they? Ha! Very well. Now, see, my lily
white. They have been too quick; got in too soon--and--and what's the
end on't? Those are the galleons going out--back again to the sea--and
the English fleet can stop in Cadiz till the forts sink 'em or they
rot. Give me some more drink. 'Of all the girls that there can be, the
Indy girl's the girl for me,'" and he fell a-singing.

"If he is right, my Lord Marlborough has been deceived," I whispered
to myself. "Yet which knows the most? Still this old ruffian must be
right. Who else could be putting to sea but the galleons?" and I went
back once more to my cabin to ponder over matters.

But now--all in a moment--there arose such an infernal hubbub from
that other cabin that one might have thought all the fiends from below
had been suddenly let loose; howls from the negro, so that I thought
the other must be killing of him in his drunken frenzy; peals of
laughter from the old man, bangings and kickings of bulkheads and the
crash of a falling glass. And, in the middle of it all, down ran Tandy
from the deck above, with, as I thought, a more concerned look upon
his face than even such an uproar as this called for. Then he made at
once for the cabin where those two were; yet, even as he advanced
swiftly, he paused to ask me if I had heard him speak a passing
picaroon a quarter of an hour back.

"Not I," I replied. "Who could hear aught above in such a din as this
below? What did they tell you?"

"Bad! Bad news. But first to quell these brutes," and he ran on as he
spoke, and kicked against the fast-closed cabin door.

"Bad news!" I repeated to myself, even as I followed him. "Bad news.
My God! the old villain is right and the galleons have escaped.
Farewell, my hopes of promotion; I may as well get back to the
regiment by the first chance that comes."

But now I had to listen to Tandy setting his other passenger to his
facings, which he did without more ado, since, the cabin door not
being opened quick enough, he applied his brawny shoulder to it and
soon forced it to slide back in its frame, the lock being torn out by
his exertion. Then after a few oaths and curses, which need not be set
down here, he roared as follows:

"See here, you drunken, disreputable old vagabond, out you go from
this ship to-morrow morning, either ashore in Lagos bay or in the first
Guarda Costa or sailing smack that comes anigh us carrying the
Portygee colours. And as for you, you black, shambling brute," turning
to the negro and seizing him by the wool, whereby he dragged him into
the gangway, after which he administered to him a rousing kick, "get
you forward amongst the men, and, by God! if you come back aft again
I'll shoot you like a dog."

"My friend," said old Carstairs, speaking now with as much sobriety
and dignity as though he had been drinking water all these days; "my
good friend, you forget. I have paid my passage to Cadiz, and to Cadiz
I will go, or the nearest touching point. Also, there are laws----"

"There are," roared Tandy, "and 'twill not suit you to come within a
hundred leagues of any of them. To-morrow you go ashore."

"I have business with the in-coming galleons," said Carstairs, leering
at him. "Those galleons going out now will come in again, you know.
Soon!" and still he leered.

"Galleons, you fool!" replied the captain. "Those are the English
warships. Your precious galleons may be at the bottom of the ocean.
Very like are by now."

And then that old man's face was a sight to see, as, suddenly, it
blanched a deathly white.

"The English warships," he murmured. "The English warships," and then
fell back gasping to his berth, muttering: "Out here! Out here!"

"Is this true?" I asked him a moment later, as we went along forward
together. "Is it true?"

"Ay, partly," he replied. "Partly. They are the English ships of war,
but, my lad, I have had news which I did not tell him. They are in
retreat. Have failed. Cadiz is not taken, and they are on their way
back to England."

"My God!" I exclaimed. And I know that as I so spoke I, too, was white
to the lips.

"On their way back to England!" I repeated.

"Ay--that's it," he said.



CHAPTER VI.

GALLEONS ABOUT!


"What's to do now? That's the question," said Tandy, an hour later, as
he and I sat in his little cabin abaft the mainmast, while, to hearten
ourselves up, we sipped together a bottle of Florence wine which he
had on board, and he sucked at his great pipe. "What now? No use for
me to think of Cadiz, though what a chance I would have had if our
countrymen had only made themselves masters of it! And for you, Mr.
Crespin? For you? I suppose, in truth, you knew of this--had some
affair of commerce, too, which brought you this way, on the idea that
they would be sure to capture the place."

"Ay, I had some idea," I answered, moodily, thinking it mattered very
little what I said now, short of the still great secret that the
galleons were going into Vigo, and never did mean coming into these
more southern regions. This secret I still kept, I say--and for one
reason. It was this, namely, that I thought it very likely that, even
though the fleet under Rooke might be driven back from Cadiz, they yet
had a chance of encountering the galleons making their way up to Vigo,
and, if they did so, I felt very sure that they would attack those
vessels, even in their own hour of defeat. Therefore, I said nothing
about the real destination of the Spanish treasure ships, though I
knew well enough that all hope was gone of my being the fortunate
individual to put my countrymen on their track.

Also, I remembered that that hoary-headed old ruffian, Carstairs, had
spoken of two at least of those galleons as being of importance to
him--and you may be sure that I had no intention whatever of
enlightening him as to anything I knew.

"What did the Portuguese picaroon tell you?" I asked of Tandy, now;
"what information give? And--are they sure of their news?"

"Oh, very sure," he answered. "No doubt about that. No doubt whatever
that we have failed in the attack on Cadiz--abandoned the siege, gone
home. They were too many for us there, and--'tis not often that it
happens, God be praised!--we are beaten."

"But why so sure? And are they--these Portuguese--to be trusted?"

"What use to tell lies? They _are_ Portuguese, and would have welcomed
a victory."

I shrugged my shoulders at this--then asked again what the strength of
their information was.

To which the captain made reply:

"They came in, it seems, early in the month, and called on the
governor to declare for Austria against France, to which he returned
reply that it was not his custom to desert his king, as many of the
English were in the habit of doing, he understood; whereon--the Duke
of Ormond being vexed by such an answer, which, it seems, did reflect
on him--the siege of Port St. Mary's commenced, the place being taken
by our people and being found to be full of wealth----"

"Taken and full of wealth!" I exclaimed. "Yet you say we are
defeated!"

"Listen," went on Tandy, "that was as nothing; for now the German
Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, who had come too, in the interests of his
Austrian master, interfered, begging of Rooke and that other not to
destroy the town, since it would injure their cause forever with the
Spaniards, and--and--well, the Portygee captain of that picaroon I
spoke says that they were only too willing to fall in with his desires
and retire without making further attempt."

"And these are English seamen and soldiers!" I muttered furiously. "My
God! To turn tail thus!"

"Ormond agreed not with these views, it seems," Tandy went on, "but he
could not outweigh the admirals--and that is all I know, except that
he will perhaps impeach 'em when they get back to England. And,
anyway, they are gone."

"And with them," I thought to myself, "go all my hopes. The galleons
will get in safe enough; there is nothing for it but to make back for
Holland and tell the earl that I have failed. No more than that," and
my bitterness was great within me at these reflections, you may be
sure.

Tandy, I doubted not, observed these feelings which possessed me, for
a minute later he said--while I observed that in a kindly way he
filled up my glass for me, as I sat brooding with my head upon my
hands by the side of the cuddy table:

"I see this touches you nearly, Mr. Crespin, and am grieved. Yet
what will you do now? Since you have missed your chance--I know not
what--will you return with me? If so you are very welcome, and--and,"
he spoke this with a delicacy I should scarce have looked for, "and
there will be no--no--passage money needed. _La Mouche Noire_ is at
your service to Rotterdam, or, for the matter of that, to Deal or
London, or where you will. I shall but stay to go in to Lagos for wood
and water, and, perhaps, sell some of my goods, if fortune serves so
far, and then--why then, 'tis back again to Holland or England to see
what may be done. I have the passage moneys of you and that old ribald
aft. For me things might be worse, thank God!"

At first I knew not what answer to make to this kindly, offer--for
kindly it was, since there was according to our compact no earthly
reason whatsoever why he should convey me back again, except as a
passenger paying highly for the service. In truth, I was so sick and
hipped at the vanishing of this, my great opportunity, that I had
recked nothing of what happened now. All I knew was that I had failed;
that I had missed, although through no fault of mine own, a glorious
chance. Therefore I said gloomily:

"Do what you will--I care not. I must get me back to Holland somehow,
and may as well take passage there with you as go other ways. In truth
there is none that I know of. Yet, kind as your offer is to convey me
free of charge, it must not be. I cannot let you be at a loss, and I
have a sufficiency of money."

"Oh! as for that, 'tis nothing. However, we will talk on this later.
Now let's see for getting into Lagos--there is nothing else to be
done. 'Specially as I must have wood and water."

Then he went away to study his chart and compass, while I sought my
bed again, and, all being perfect silence at this time in Carstairs'
cabin--doubtless he was quite drunk by now!--I managed to get some
sleep, though 'twas uneasy at the best.

In the morning when I again went on deck I saw that we were in full
sail, as I had guessed us to be from the motion of the ship while
dressing myself below; also, a look at the compass box told me we were
running due north--for Lagos. And, if aught could have cheered the
heart of a drooping man, it should have been the surroundings of this
fair, bright morning. It was, I remember well, September 22--the
glistening sea, looking like a great blue diamond sparkling beneath
the bright sun, the white spume flung up forward over our bows, the
equally white sheets above. Also, near us, to add to the beauty of the
morn, the sea was dotted with a-many small craft, billander rigged,
their sails a bright scarlet--and these, Tandy told me, were
Portuguese fishing boats out catching the tunny, which abounds
hereabout. While, away on our starboard beam, were--I started as I
looked at them--what were they?

Three great vessels near together, their huge white sails bellied out
to the breeze, sailing very free; the foam tossed from their stems,
almost contemptuously, it seemed, so proudly did they dash it away
from them; vessels full rigged, and tightly, too; vessels along the
sides of which there ran tier upon tier of gun-ports; vessels also,
from each of whose mastheads there flew a flag--the flag of England!

"What does it mean?" I asked Tandy, who strolled along the poop toward
me, his face having on it a broad grin, while his eye drooped into
that wink he used so. "What does it mean? They are our own ships of
war; surely they are not chasing us!"

"Never fear!" said he. "They are but consorts of ours just now. Oh!
it's a brave talk we have been having together with the flags this
morning. They are of the fleet--are Her Majesty's ships _Eagle_,
_Stirling Castle_ and _Pembroke_--and are doing exactly the same as
ourselves, are going into Lagos for water. Also those transports
behind," and he pointed away aft, where half a dozen of those vessels
were following.

"The fleet," I gasped, "the fleet that has left Cadiz--the great fleet
under Sir George Rooke--and going into Lagos!"

"Some of them--those you see now on our beam, and the transports
coming up."

"And the others," I gasped again, overcome by this joyful news, "the
others? What of them?"

"Oh! they will lie off till these go out with the fresh water casks.
Then for England."

"Never," I said to myself. "Not yet, at least," and I turned my face
away so that Tandy should not perceive the emotion which I felt sure
must be depicted on it.

For think, only think, what this meant to England--to me!

It meant that I--the only man in the seas around Spain and Portugal
who knew of where the galleons would be, or were by now--I who alone
could tell them, tell this great fleet, which I had but lately missed,
of the whereabouts of those galleons--had by God's providence come
into communication with them again; meant that the instant we were in
Lagos bay I could go aboard one of those great warships and divulge
all--tell them to make for Vigo, tell them that it was in their power
to deal so fierce a blow to Spain and France as should cripple them.

I could have danced and sung for very joy. I could have flung my arms
around Tandy's sun-burned and hairy neck in ecstasy, have performed
any act of craziness which men indulge in when a great happiness falls
upon them; nay, would have done any deed of folly, but that I was
restrained by the reflection of how all depended on me now, and of
how--since I was the bearer of so great a piece of news from so great
a man as the Earl of Marlborough--it behooved me to act with
circumspection and decorum. Therefore I calmed myself, instead of
indulging in any transports whatever. I recollect that I even forced
myself to make some useless remark upon the beauty of the smiling
morn; that I said also that I thought _La Mouche Noire_ was making as
good seaway as the great frigates themselves, then asked coldly and
indifferently, with the same desire for disguise, when Tandy thought
we might all be in the bay and at anchorage.

He glanced up at the sun--he had a big tortoise-shell watch in his
pocket, but, sailor-like, never looked at it during the day, and when
he had the sun for horologe--then leaned over the high gunwale of the
ship and looked between his hands toward the north, and said:

"The old castle of Penhas is rising rapidly to view. 'Tis now eight of
the clock. By midday we shall have dropped anchor."

"And the frigates?" I asked, with a nod toward the queen's great
ships, which still were on our beam, in the same position to us as
before.

"About the same. Only they will go in first to make choice of their
anchorage." Then he added: "But they will not stay long; no longer
than to fill the casks. Perhaps a day, or till nightfall."

"'Twill be long enough for me," I thought. "An hour would suffice to
get on board one of them, ask to be taken off and sent to the
admiral's ship to tell my tale. Long enough."

And now I went below again--with what different feelings from those
which possessed me when I went on deck, you may well suppose--and
began hastily to bestow my necessaries, such as they were, into the
bag I had carried behind me on my horse from Venloo to Rotterdam: a
change of linen, some brushes, a sleeping gown and a good cloak,
carried either around me or the bag, if warm and dry weather, my
powder flask and a little sack of bullets for my cavalry pistols--that
was all. Also I counted my pieces, took out my shagreen bill case and
saw that my Lord Marlborough's money drafts were safe, as well as my
commission to the regiment, which must now serve as a passport and
letter of presentation, and I was ready to go ashore at any moment,
and to transfer myself to one of the ships if they would take me with
them after I had told my news, as my Lord had said I was to demand
they should do. Yet, little while enough as I had been a-doing of
these things, 'twas not so quickly finished but that there was time
for an interruption; interruption from Mr. Carstairs, who, a moment or
so after I had been in my cabin, tapped gently, almost furtively, it
seemed to me, upon the door, and on my bidding him come in--I
suspecting very well who it was--put his head through the opening he
had made by pushing it back.

"Are we in danger?" he asked, while as he spoke, I could not but
observe that he looked very badly this morning--perhaps from the
renewals of his drinkings. His face was all puckered and drawn, and
whiter, it seemed to me, than before; his eyes were hideously
bloodshot--that must, I guessed, be the drink--while the white, coarse
hand with which he grasped the panel shook, I observed.

"Danger!" I repeated coldly, as well as curtly, for, as you may be
sure, I had come to thoroughly despise, as well as cordially to
detest, this dissolute old man who, besides, had a black and fearful
past behind him, if his feverish wanderings of mind were to be
trusted. "Danger! From what?"

"There are war frigates by us," he whispered. "Do you not know?"

"Yes, I know. But you who have been, it seems, a sailor, should also
know our own flag, I think."

"Our own flag! Our English flag!"

"Can you not see?"

"They are on the other side of the ship. I cannot see aught through my
port."

"Look through mine, then," I answered, pointing to it, and he, with
many courteous excuses for venturing to intrude--he was much changed
now, I thought--went over to my window, and gazed at the queen's
vessels.

"True," he said. "True. They are English--our--ships. Where could they
come from, do you suppose?"

"From the Cadiz fleet. And they are going into Lagos, as we are."

"And then--do you know where to, then--afterward--noble sir?"

"Then they will go north."

He drew a long breath at this--I guessed it to be a sigh of
satisfaction at the thought that the English fleet should be going
north, while the galleons, in which he had seemed to be so concerned,
should either be going into, or gone into, Cadiz--as he supposed. Then
he said:

"Oh, sir, this is, indeed, good news. For--for--I have business at
Cadiz--very serious business, and--if they had remained here in the
south they might have done much harm to honest traders, might they
not? Do you not think so?"

"They may do harm elsewhere," I answered, again curtly. And my brevity
caused him to look at me enquiringly.

"What harm? What can they do?"

"Oh! as for that," I said, unable to resist the temptation of repaying
him somewhat for all the discomfort he had caused in the ship, and
also because I so much despised him, "as for that, they might do much.
They say there are some galleons about. Supposing they should meet
them. 'Tis a great fleet; it could be fateful to a weaker one."

"Galleons! Galleons about!" he repeated--shrieked, almost. "Nay! Nay!
Nay! The galleons are safe in Cadiz by now."

"Are they?" I said, shrugging of my shoulders.

"Are they not?" And now his face was death itself.

"We spoke a ship last night which did not say so," I answered. "No
galleons have passed this way, gone in yet."

I almost regretted my words, seeing, a moment later, their effect on
him. For that effect was great--I had nigh written terrible.

He staggered back from the port-hole by which he had been standing,
gazing out at the _Pembroke_ and her consorts, his face waxy now from
the absence of blood; his lips a bluish purple, so that I could see
the cracks in them; his coarse white hands twitching; and his eyes
roving round my cabin lighted on my washing commode, on which stood
the water ewer; then he seized it and the glass, poured out from one
to the other--his hand shook so that the neck of the vessel clinked a
tune upon the rim of the glass--and drank, yet not without some sort
of a murmured apology for doing so--an apology that became almost a
whine.

"Not passed this way--not gone in yet? My God! Where are they?
And--and--with that fleet here--here--here--'twixt here and Cape St.
Vincent! Where are they?"

"Probably coming in now--on their way," I made answer. "Or very near."
Then next said, quietly: "You seem concerned about this?"

"Concerned!" he wailed. "Concerned! I have my fortune, my all--'tis
not much, yet much to me--on board two of the galleons, and--and--ah!"
and he clutched at his ruffled shirt front. "The English fleet is
there--across their path! My God!"



CHAPTER VII.

LAGOS BAY.


Tandy had timed our arrival in the bay with great exactness, since,
soon after midday, both the queen's ships and ourselves had dropped
anchor within it, the former saluting, and being saluted in return, by
some artillery from the crazy old castle that rose above the shore.
And now from those three frigates away went pinnaces and jolly boats,
as well as the great long boats and launches, all in a hurry to
fetch off the water which they needed, while also I could see very
well that from the _Pembroke_ they were a-hoisting overboard their
barge, into which got some of the land officers--as the sailors call
the soldiers--and also a gentleman in black who was, I supposed, a
chaplain.

And then I considered that it was time for me to be ashore, too, since
I knew not how long 'twould take for the ships of war to get in what
they wanted, and to be off and away again; though Tandy told me I need
be in no manner of hurry, since they had let down what he called their
shore anchors, which they would not have done had they intended going
away again in a moment, when they would have used instead their kedge,
or pilot, anchors.

However, I was so impatient that I would not be stayed, and
consequently begged the captain to let me have one of the shore boats,
which had come out on our arrival and were now all around us, called
alongside; and into this I jumped the instant it touched our ship. My
few goods I left on board, to be brought on land when the captain
himself came, which he intended to do later; nor did I make my
farewells to him, since I felt pretty sure we should meet again
shortly, while it was by no means certain that the admiral would take
me with him, after I had delivered my news; but, instead, might order
me to return at once to the earl with some reply message. Yet I hoped
this would not be so, especially since his Lordship had bidden me see
the thing out and then bring him, as fast as I could make my way back
to the Netherlands, my account of what had been done.

As for that miserable old creature, Carstairs, I clean forgot all
about him; nor even if I had remembered his existence, should I have
troubled to pay him any adieux, for in truth, I never supposed that I
should see him again in this world, and for certain, I had no desire
to do so; yet as luck would have it--but there is no need to
anticipate.

I jumped into the shore boat, I say, as soon as it came alongside _La
Mouche Noire_, and was quickly rowed into the port, observing as I
went that there was a considerable amount of craft moored in the bay,
many of which had doubtless run in there during the storms of a night
or two ago, while, also, there were some sheltering in it which would
possibly have been lying in other harbors now--and those, Spanish
ones--had it not been for the war and the consequent danger of attack
from the English and Dutch navies in any other waters than those of
Portugal, she being, as I have said, neutral at present, though
leaning to our--the allies'--side. To wit, there were at this moment
some German ships, also a Dane or two, a Dutchman and a Swedish bark
here.

And now I stepped ashore on Portuguese ground, and found myself
torn hither and thither by the most ragged and disorderly crowd of
beggars one could imagine, some of them endeavouring to drag me off to
a dirty inn at the waterside, in front of which there sat two priests
a-drinking with some scaramouches, whom I took to be Algarvian
soldiers, while others around me had, I did believe, serious
intentions on my pockets had I not kept my hands tight in them.
Also--which hearted me up to see--there were many of our English
sailors about, dressed in their red kersey breeches with white tin
buttons, and their grey jackets and Welsh kersey waistcoats, all of
whom were bawling and halloaing to one another--making the confusion
and noise worse confounded--and using fierce oaths in the greatest
good humour. And then, while I stood there wondering how I should find
those whom I sought for, I heard a voice behind me saying in cheery
tones in my own tongue:

"Faith, Tom, 'tis an Englishman, I tell you. No doubt about that. Look
to his rig; observe also he can scarce speak a word more of the
language of the country he is in than we can ourselves. Does not that
proclaim him one of us? Except our beloved friends, the French, who
are as ignorant of other tongues as we are, we are the worst. Let's
board him--we are all in the same boat."

Now, knowing very well that these remarks could hardly be applied to
any one but me, I turned round and found close to my elbow a fat,
jolly-looking gentleman, all clad in black, and with a black scarf
slung across him, and wearing a tie-wig, which had not been powdered
for many a day--a gentleman with an extremely red face, much pitted
with the small-pox. And by his side there stood four or five other
gentlemen, who, 'twas easy to see at a glance, were of my own
trade--their gold laced scarlet coats, the aiguillettes of one, the
cockades in all their hats, showed that.

"Sir," said the one who had spoken, taking off his own black hat,
which, like his wig, would have been the better for some attention,
and bowing low. "I fear you overheard me. Yet I meant no offense. And,
since I am very sure that you are of our country, there should be
none. Sir, I am, if you will allow me to present myself, Mr. Beauvoir,
chaplain of her Majesty's ship, _Pembroke_. These are my friends,
officers serving under his Grace of Ormond, and of my Lord Shannon's
grenadiers and Colonel Pierce's regiment"; whereon he again took off
his hat to me, in which polite salutation he was followed by the
others, while I returned the courtesy.

And now I knew that I had found what I wanted--knew that the road was
open to me to reach the admiral, to tell my tale. I had found those
who could bring me into communication with the fleet; be very sure I
should not lose sight of them now. But first I had to name myself,
wherefore I said:

"Gentlemen, I am truly charmed to see you. Let me in turn present
myself. My name is Mervyn Crespin, lieutenant in the Cuirassiers, or
Fourth Horse, and it is by God's special grace that I have been so
fortunate as to encounter you. For," and here I glanced round at the
filthy crowd which environed us, and lowered my voice a little, "I am
here on a special mission to your commander from my Lord Marlborough.
Yet I thought I had failed when I heard you were off and away from
Cadiz."

Now, when I mentioned the position which I held in the army all looked
with increased interest at me, and again took off their hats, while
when I went on to speak of my mission from the Earl of Marlborough
there came almost a dazed look into some of their faces, as though
'twas impossible for them to understand what the Captain-General of
the Netherlands could have to say with the fleet that had been sent
forth from England to Cadiz.

"A message to our commander," Mr. Beauvoir said. "A message to our
commander. By the Lord Harry, I am afraid 'tis even now a bootless
quest, though. Our commander with all his fleet is on his way back to
England--and pretty well dashed, too, through being obliged to draw
off from Cadiz, I can tell you. I fear you will not see him this side
of Spithead, even if you go with us, who are about to follow him."

That I was also "pretty well dashed" at this news needs no telling,
since my feelings may be well enough conceived; yet I plucked up heart
to say:

"I do think, if your captain but hears the news I bring, that he will
endeavour to catch the fleet and turn it from its homeward course--ay,
even though he sets sail again to-night without so much as a drop of
fresh water in his casks. 'Tis great news--news that may do much to
cripple France."

"Is it private, sir?" the chaplain asked. "For the ears of the
admirals alone?"

"Nay," said I; "by no means private from English ears; yet," I
continued, with still another glance around, "not to be spoken openly.
Is there no room we can adjourn to?"

"We have been trying ourselves for half an hour to find an inn," said
one of the grenadiers, with a laugh, "which swarms not with vermin of
all sorts. Yet, come, let us endeavour again. Even though there is
naught for gentlemen to eat or drink, we may, at least, be alone and
hear this news. Come, let us seek for some spot," and he elbowed his
way through the waterside crowd which still stood gaping round us, and
which, even when we all moved away, hung on our heels, staring at us
as though we were some strange beings from another world. Also,
perhaps, they thought to filch some scrap of lace or galloon from off
our clothes.

"Away, vagabonds! What in heaven's name is Portuguese for 'away,
vagabonds'?" muttered Mr. Beauvoir, making signs to the beggarly
brood, who--perhaps because often our ships put in here for water, and
they were accustomed to seeing the English--held out their dirty,
claw-like hands, and shrieked: "Moaney! Moaney! Englase moaney!"
"Away, I say, and leave us in peace!"

And gradually, seeing there was nothing more to be gotten after one or
two of us had flung them a coin or so, they left us to our devices, so
that we were able to stroll along the few miserable streets which the
town possessed; able to observe, also, that there was no decent inn
into which a person, who valued his future comfort and freedom from a
month or so of itching, could put his foot in safety.

But now we reached a little open spot, or _plaza_, a place which had a
melancholy, deserted look--there being several empty houses in this
gloomy square--while, on another, we saw the arms of France stuck up,
a shield with a blazing sun upon it,--the emblem of Louis!--and the
lilies on it, also--and guessed it must be the consul's place
of business. And here it seemed to me as if this was as
fitting an opportunity as I should find for making the necessary
disclosures--disclosures which, when these gentlemen had heard them,
might induce them to hurry back to the _Pembroke_, bring me into
communication with the captain, and lead him to put to sea, in the
hopes of picking up the remainder, and chief part, of the English
fleet, which was but twenty-four hours ahead of them.

"Gentlemen," I said, "here is a quiet spot"--as indeed it was, seeing
that there was nothing alive in this mournful _plaza_ but a few
scraggy fowls pecking among the stones, and a lean dog or two sleeping
in the sun. "Let me tell you my news."

Whereupon all of them halted and stood round me, listening eagerly
while I unfolded my story and gave them the intelligence that the
galleons had gone into Vigo, escorted, as the earl had said while we
rode toward Rotterdam, by a large French fleet.

"'Fore George, Harry," said Mr. Beauvoir, turning toward the elder of
the officers with him, a captain in Pierce's regiment, "but this is
mighty fine news. Only--can it be true? I mean," he went on with a
pleasant bow to me, "can it be possible that the Earl of Marlborough
is not mistaken? For, if 'tis true and we can only communicate with
Sir George Rooke and get him back again, 'twill be a fine thing; wipe
out the scandal and hubbub that will arise over our retreat from
Cadiz, go far to save Parliament enquiries and the Lord knows what--to
say nothing of court martials. Humph?"

"Why should the earl be mistaken in this?" asked one of the others. "At
least he was right in judging they would not go into Cadiz."

"We must take you at once to Captain Hardy, of our ship," said the
chaplain. "'Tis for him to decide when he has heard your story. Come,
let us get back to the pinnace--no time must be wasted."

"With the very greatest will in the world," said I. "'Tis for that I
have travelled from Holland, and, pray God, I have not come too late.
Success means much for me."

Then we turned to go, while the officers attacked me on all sides for
an account of the siege of Kaiserswerth, of which they had not yet
heard full accounts, and we were just leaving the square when there
appeared at the door of the French consul's house a man who, no sooner
did he observe us and our English appearance--which betrays us all
over Europe, I have noticed, though I know not why--and also the
brilliancy of the officers' dress, than he set to work bowing and
grimacing like a monkey; also he began calling out salutations to us
in French, and asking us how the English did now in the wars? and
saying that, for himself, he very much regretted that France and
England had got flying at one another's throats once more, since if
they were not fools and would only keep united, as they had been in
the days of him whom he called _le grand roi Charles Deux_, they might
rule the world between them; which was true enough as regarded their
united powers (if not the greatness of that late king of ours), as
many other people more sensible than he have thought.

"'Tis a merry heart," said Mr. Beauvoir, smiling on the fantastic
creature as he gibbered and jumped about on his doorstep, while the
others looked contemptuously at him, for we soldiers had but a poor
opinion of the French, though always pleased to fight them; "a joyous
blade! Let us return his civility"; whereupon he took off his hat,
which courtesy we all imitated, and wished him "Good day" politely in
his own language.

"Ha! you speak French, monsieur," the other said at this; "also you
have the _bonne mine_. English gentlemens is always gentlemens. Ha! I
ver' please see you."--he was himself now speaking half English and
half French. "_Je vous salue_. Lagos ver' _triste_. I always glad see
gentlemens. _Veuillez un verre de vin? C'est Français, vrai Français!_
Ver' goot."

"'Tis tempting," said the chaplain of the Pembroke, his face appearing
to get more red than before at the invitation. "Well, we can do no
harm in having a crack with him. Only--silence, remember," and he
glanced at the officers. "Not a word of our doings--lately, now, or to
come."

"Never fear," said the eldest. "We can play a better game than that
would be," whereon the chaplain, after bowing gracefully to our
would-be host, said in very fair French that, if he desired it, we
would all drink a glass of wine with him--only he feared we were too
many.

"Not a jot, not a jot," this strange creature cried, beckoning all of
us into the house and forthwith leading us into a whitewashed room, in
the middle of which was a table with, upon it, a great outre of wine,
bound and supported by copper bands and flanked with a number of
glasses, so that one might have thought he was ever offering
entertainment to others. Then, with great dexterity, he filled the
requisite number of glasses, and, after making us each touch his with
ours, drank a toast.

"_A la fin de la guerre_," he said, after screaming, first,
"_Attention, messieurs_," and rapping on the table with his glass to
claim that attention, "_à l'amitié incassable de la France et de
l'Angleterre. Vivent, vivent, vivent la France et l'Angleterre_," and
down his throat went all the wine.

"A noble toast," said Mr. Beauvoir, with a gravity which--I know not
why!--I did not think, somehow, was his natural attribute, "a noble
toast. None--be he French or English--could refuse to pledge that,"
and, with a look at the others, away went his liquor, too, while my
brother officers, with a queer look upon their faces, which seemed to
express the thought that they scarce knew whether they ought to be
carousing in this manner with the representative of an enemy,
swallowed theirs.

"Ha! goot, ver' goot," our friend went on, "we will have some more."
And in a twinkling he had replenished the glasses and got his own up
to, or very near to, his lips. And catching a glance of Mr. Beauvoir's
grey eye as he did this, I felt very sure that the reverend gentleman
knew as well as I did, or suspected as well as I did, that these were
by no means the first potations our friend had been indulging in this
morning.

"Another toast," he cried now, "_sacré nom d'un chien!_ we will drink
more toasts. _A la santé_"--then paused, and muttered: "No, no. I
cannot propose that. No. _Ce n'est pas juste_."

"What is not just, monsieur?" asked Mr. Beauvoir, pausing with his own
uplifted glass.

"Why, _figurez-vous_, I was going to commit an _impolitesse_--what you
call a _rudesse_--rudeness--in your English tongue. To propose the
continued prosperity of France--no! _vraiment il ne faut pas ça_.
Because you are my guests--I love the English gentlemens always--and
it is so certain--so very certain."

"The continued success of France is very certain, monsieur?" said one
of the grenadiers, looking darkly at him. "You say that?"

"_Sans doute_. It cannot be otherwise. On sea and land we must triumph
now--and then--then we shall have _la paix incassable_. Oh! yes, now
that Chateaurenault is on the seas, we must perforce win there--win
every--everything. And for the land, why----"

"Chateaurenault is on the seas!" exclaimed the chaplain, looking very
grave. "And how long has that been, monsieur?"

"Oh, some time, some time." Then he put his finger to his nose and
said, looking extremely cunning in his half drunkenness. "And soon now
he will be free to scour them, turn his attention to you and the
Dutch--curse the Dutch always, they are _cochons!_--soon, ver' soon.
Just as soon as the galleons are unloaded at Vigo--when we need
protect them no more."

Swift as lightning all our eyes met as the good-natured sot said this
in his boastfulness; then Mr. Beauvoir, speaking calmly again, said:

"So he is protecting them at Vigo, eh? 'Tis not often they unload
there."

"_Ah, non, non_. Not ver' often. But, you see, you had closed Cadiz
against them, so, _naturellement_, they must go in somewhere."

"Naturally. No--not another drop of wine, I thank you."



CHAPTER VIII.

ON BOARD H. M. S. PEMBROKE.


A good snoring breeze was ripping us along parallel with the
Portuguese coast a fortnight later, every rag of canvas being
stretched aloft--foretop gallant royals, mizzentop gallant royals and
royal staysails. For we had found the main body of the fleet at last,
after eleven days' search for them, and we were on the road to Vigo.

Only, should we be too late when we got there? That was the question!

Let me take up my tale where I left off. Time enough to record our
hopes and fears when that is told.

Our French friend, whose boastfulness had increased with every drop of
Montrâchet he swallowed (and 'twas real good wine, vastly different,
the chaplain, who boasted himself a fancier, said afterward, from the
filthy concoctions to be obtained in that part of Portugal), had been
unable to hold his tongue, having got upon the subject of the
greatness of his beloved France, and the consequence was that every
word he let fall served but to corroborate the Earl of Marlborough's
information and my statement. Nay! by the time he allowed us to quit
his house, which was not for half an hour after he had first divulged
the neighborhood of Chateaurenault and the galleons, and during which
period he drank even more fast and furious than before, he had given
us still further information. For, indeed, it seemed that once this
poor fool's tongue was unloosed, there were no bounds to his vaunts
and glorifications, and had it not been that he was our host and,
also, that every word he said was of the greatest value to us, I do,
indeed, believe that one or other of the officers would have twisted
his neck for him, so exasperating was his bragging.

"_Pauvre Angleterre! Pauvre Angleterre!_" he called out, after we had
refused to drink any more, though he himself still kept on
unceasingly; "Poor England. Ah, mon Dieu, what shall become of her!
Beaten at Cadiz----"

"Retired from Cadiz, if you please, monsieur," one of Pierce's
officers said sternly, "because the Dutch ships had runout of
provisions, and because, also, the admiral and his Grace could not
hope to win Spain to the cause of Austria by bombarding their towns
and invading their country. Remember that, sir, if you please."

"_Oh, la la! C'est la même chose_. It matters not." Then the talkative
idiot went on: "I hope only that the fleet is safe in England by now.
Ver' safe, because otherwise----"

"Have no fear, sir," the officer said again, though at a sign from Mr.
Beauvoir, he held his peace and allowed the Frenchman to proceed.

"Ver' safe, because, otherwise, Chateaurenault will soon catch
them--poof! like a mouse in grimalkin's claws. The _débarquement_ must
be over by now--oh yes, over by now!--_l'amiral_ will be free to roam
the seas with his great fleet. _Tiens! c'est énorme!_ There is, for
instance, _La Sirène, L'Espérance, La Superbe, Le Bourbon,
L'Enflame_--all terrible vessels. Also many more. _Le Solide, Le Fort,
Le Prompte--Fichtre!_ I cannot recall their names--they are fifteen in
all. What can you do against that?"

"What did we do at La Hogue?" asked Mr. Beauvoir quietly.

"Ha! La Hogue! _Voilà--faute de bassesse--faute de_----"

"Sir," said the chaplain, interrupting, "let us discourse no more on
this subject. If we do we shall but get to quarrelling---and you have
been polite and hospitable. We would not desire that to happen. Sir,
we are obliged to you," and he held out his hand.

The strange creature took it--he took all our hands and shook them; he
even seemed about to weep a little at our departure, and muttered that
Lagos was "ver' triste." He loved to see any one, even though a
misguided enemy.

"And," said Mr. Beauvoir, as we made our way down to the quay where
the pinnace was to take them off, "to chatter to them as well as see
them. Forgive him, Lord, he is a madman! Yet, I think," turning to me,
"you should be satisfied. He corroborates you, and he has told us
something worth knowing. Fifteen ships of war in all, eh?" whereon he
fell a-musing. "A great fleet, in truth; yet ours is larger and we are
English. That counts."

It took us a very little while to fetch off to the _Pembroke_, and on
arriving on board, Mr. Beauvoir instantly sent to know if he could see
the captain, since he brought great news from the shore. The sentry
would not, however, by any means undertake to deliver the message,
since Captain Hardy was now abed, he having been on the poop all night
while the ships were coming in; whereupon Mr. Beauvoir, saying that
the business we were now on took precedence of sleep and rest, pushed
his way into the great cabin and instantly knocked at the door outside
the captain's berth. Also, he called to him to say that he had news of
the galleons and the French admiral's fleet, and that there waited by
his side an officer of the land forces charged with a message to him
from the Earl of Marlborough.

"What!" called out the captain as we heard him slip his door open,
after hearing also a bound as he leaped from his bunk to the floor.
"What!" and a minute after he stood before us, a fine, brave-seeming
gentleman, without his coat or vest on.

"What! News of the galleons! Are you the messenger, sir?" looking at
me and returning my salute. "Quick! Your news; in as few words as may
be."

And in a few words I told him all while he stood there before me, the
chaplain supplementing of my remarks in equally few words by a
description of what the drunken French consul had maundered on about
in his boastings.

And the actions of this captain showed me at once that I was before
one of those sea commanders who, by their daring and decision, had
done so much to make our power on the ocean feared, notwithstanding
any checks such as that of Cadiz, which they might now and again have
to submit to.

"Sentry!" he called out, running into his cabin to strike upon a gong
by his bedside at the same time. "Sentry!" And then, when the man
appeared, went on: "Send the yeoman of the signals to me at once. Away
with you."

"Make signal," he said to the lad, who soon came tumbling down the
companion ladder, his glass under his arm, "to Captain Wishart in the
_Eagle_, and all the captains in the squadron, to repair here for
consultation without loss of time. Up! and waste no moment."

And sure enough--for in Her Majesty's navy they are as prompt as we of
the sister service, if not prompter, since to a sailor, minutes are
sometimes of as much importance as an hour on land--ere a quarter of
an hour had passed the waters of the harbour were dotted with the
barges of the other captains making for our ship, and, five minutes
after that, all were assembled in the great cabin listening to my
tale. And all were at once agreed on what must be a-doing.

"'Tis of vast importance," said Captain Wishart, who I think was the
senior, since he presided, "that the admiral be acquainted with this.
'Tis for him to decide what shall be done when he has heard the
mission on which this officer has come, and heard also the words of
the Frenchman. Now, who has the fastest sailer? You, I think, Hardy."

"True enough," replied that captain, "as to speed, I can sail two feet
to every one of all the rest. Yet the head of the ship is somewhat
loose, which may endanger the masts; she is also leaky, and our food
is short. Nevertheless, since the intelligence has been by good luck
brought to my hands I am loth indeed to resign the honor of finding
Sir George."

"Nor shall you resign it," exclaimed the other captains. "The chance
is yours. Succeed in it and you will get your flag. Hardy, you must
take it."

Enough that I say he took it--had he not done so he would not have
been worth one of his ship's biscuits, the cases of which were, as it
happened, now running extremely low. Took it, too, in spite of the
murmurings of some of his men, who said that they had signed for the
expedition to Cadiz, and for that alone, and, therefore, it was
plainly his duty to return to England. But Captain Hardy had a short
way with such as these--a way well enough known to sailors!--while to
others, with whom he thought it worth while to explain at all, he
pointed out that there must be in the galleons, if they could only get
alongside of them, sufficient prize money for all.

Off we went, therefore, to find the admiral and the main body of the
fleet, while, as luck would have it, there blew from off the
Portuguese coast a soft, brisk wind which took us along on the course
we desired, namely, that in which we supposed and hoped that Sir
George Rooke and the Dutch fleet had gone. All the same, it was no
very pleasant cruise; the food ran lower and lower as day after day
passed and we could not see so much as a topsail anywhere, until at
last we came to two biscuits a day, officers and men. Then, to make
matters worse, the weather came on rough and boisterous, so that the
captain said for sure the fleet would separate; that though we might
find one or two of the number 'twas scarce likely we should find more,
and that even those which we might by chance come across would
possibly not have the _Royal Sovereign_, which was Rooke's ship,
amongst them.

Briefly, however, we did find them after eleven days, and when we had
begun to give up all hope, and while another terrible fear had taken
possession of our minds--the fear that even should we come together
and proceed to Vigo, we might find the galleons unloaded and their
treasure removed inland. However, as I have now to tell--and, indeed,
as you have read of late in the published accounts of our attack upon
those galleons--that was not to be.

We found, therefore--to hurry on--the two fleets very close to one
another, and no sooner had Sir George communicated the news to the
Dutch admiral, Vandergoes, and to the Duke of Ormond, than it was
determined to at once proceed on the way to Vigo to see if the
galleons were there, and if--above all things--they still had their
goods in them; for, though 'twas like enough that we should destroy
them if we could, and crush Chateaurenault as well, 'twould be but
half a victory if we could not wrench away the spoils from the enemy
and profit by it ourselves.

And now off went two frigates to scout in the neighbourhood of the Bay
of Vigo and see how much truth there was in the information my Lord
Marlborough had sent; and on the night of October 9, to which we had
come by this time, they returned; returned with the joyful
intelligence that the treasure ships were drawn up as far as possible
in a narrow strait in the harbour; that outside and guarding them,
were some twenty French and Spanish ships of war, and that across the
harbour was stretched a huge boom of masts and spars, protected on
either side by great batteries of cannon.

Also they brought another piece of good news: The galleons, they
thought, were still _unloaded_.

And still another piece of intelligence, equally welcome: The frigates
had sighted Sir Cloudesley Shovel's fleet in the neighbourhood of Cape
Finisterre, had communicated with him, and brought back word that as
we drew near to Vigo he would combine with us.

That night we kept high revels on board all our ships--those only
whose duty it was to take the watches being prevented from joining in
the delirium of joy. Casks were broached and healths were drunk,
suppers eaten joyously--we of the _Pembroke_ having now all we could
desire given us from our consorts--songs sung. And, if there was one
who more than others was the hero of the evening, it was the simple
gentleman who had brought the first intimation of the whereabouts of
those whom we now meant to "burn, plunder, and destroy," as the old
naval motto runs; the man who now pens these lines--myself.

Perhaps 'twas no very good preparation for a great fight that, on the
night before the day when we hoped to be gripping French and Spaniards
by the throat, blowing up, burning or sinking their ships, and seizing
their treasures, we should have been wassailing and carousing deeply
all through that night. Yet, remember, we were sailors and soldiers;
we were bent on an errand of destruction against the tyrant who had
crushed and frighted all Europe for now nigh sixty years; the splendid
despot who, but a few months ago, had acknowledged as King of England
one whom every Englishman had sworn deeply should never sit on
England's throne, nor inherit the crown of his ancestors--if, indeed,
the Stuarts were the ancestors of the youth whom the late James called
his son.

For this remembrance we may be forgiven--forgiven for hating Louis and
all his brood--hating him, the tyrant of Versailles, and the fat
booby, his grandson, who aspired to grasp the throne of Spain by the
help of Versailles and its master, that great, evil King of France!

Through that night, I say, we drank and caroused, called toasts to our
good queen, prayed God that we might do her credit on the morrow, and
exalt the name of great Anna? And even the watch, coming off duty in
turns, ran into the main cabin ere they sought their berths, seized
cans and cannikins brimming high, and drank her health and that of our
own dear land.

'Twas a great night, yet it came to an end at last, and the autumn
morning dawned, thick, hazy, damp--still, not so thick or hazy but
that we could see through it the mountains over and around Vigo
looming up, and, at their feet, the entrance to the bay.

Also, we saw, away to the northwest, the fleet of Sir Cloudesley
Shovel coming up toward us, escorted and led by our scouts.



CHAPTER IX.

THE TAKING OF THE GALLEONS.


Looking back upon that great day--it was October 11--it seems to me
that many of the events which happened must have been due to the mercy
and goodness of God, so incredible were they.

For see now what fell out at the very first, namely, that the haze and
mist were so thick that we were enabled to anchor at the mouth of the
great river and harbour without so much as even our presence being
known, so that when the sun set and the fog lifted, the surprise of
those snared and trapped creatures was great, and they at once began
firing wildly upon us, without, however, doing any harm whatever. But
the lifting of that fog showed us what we had to encounter, the work
that was to be done.

For, first, it enabled us to see that, across the river, or narrow
strait, as indeed it was, the French admiral had laid a tremendous
boom, made up of cables, yards and masts, topchains and casts, some
nine feet in circumference, while the whole was kept fixed and steady
by anchors at either side. This, too, we perceived, was constructed
between two forts known as the Ronde and the Noot, one on the left
bank and the other on the right, while far up the harbour, where we
saw the galleons all a-lying tucked in comfortably under the cliffs,
with a line of French ships of battle, and some Spanish ones, ahead of
and guarding them, we perceived a great fort, which is known as the
Fort of Redondella.

And now the night came down upon us, and we knew that for this day
there would be no fighting, though, since all through it the admiral
went from ship to ship in his barge, giving orders, 'twas very certain
that at daybreak it would begin.

And so it did, as now I have to describe.

For on the morrow, and when, as near six o'clock as may be, the sun
came up swiftly over the great hills, or mountains, which abound here,
we made our first preparations for the attack by the landing of the
Duke of Ormond with two thousand five hundred and fifty men on the
side of the Fort Redondella, they marching at once toward it on foot.

As for myself, although a soldier, it had been decided that I should
remain in the _Pembroke_, and this for more than one reason.

"You have," said Captain Hardy to me, "no uniform with you; therefore,
if you fall into the hands of those on shore it may go hard with you.
Yet here you can be of service; help train a gun, if need be, issue
orders, take part in the boarding, which must surely occur, perhaps
take part in sacking of the galleons. There's business for you--such,
indeed as, as a soldier, you are not very like to ever see again. My
lad!" he went on--and in truth I was a lad to him, though I esteemed
myself a very full-fledged man--"you are to be congratulated. You
will have much to talk about in years to come--if you survive this
day--which falls not often to a landsman's lot," and he ran away as
gay as a lad himself, all grizzled with service though he was, to
prepare for assisting in breaking the boom.

So I stayed in the _Pembroke_ and, as you shall see, if you do but
read, the doing so led to all that happened to me which I have now to
set down, and all of which--had it not so happened--would have
prevented this narrative from ever being penned, since it is not to
describe only the siege of Vigo and the taking of the Spanish galleons
that I am a-writing of this story.

Therefore I proceed:

Down from the hills already the smoke was rolling fast, obscuring
the beauteous morn by now; white smoke from the cannon in the
fort--through which there leapt every moment great spits of flame from
the big guns' mouths!--dun-coloured smoke from the grenades carried by
Lord Shannon and Colonel Pierce's grenadiers; black, greasy smoke
vomited forth from the fuzees. And it came down to the water and
poured across it in clouds, enveloping the galleons in its wreaths and
the great French ships of battle; clinging around our own topsails and
masts, almost obscuring each of our vessels from the other.

Yet not so much, neither, but that--a breeze having sprung up after a
calm which had enforced us to drop our anchors for a while--we,
of the _Pembroke_, could see glide by us a great ship, with her men on
yards and masts and in fighting tops, all cheering lustily, and some
a-singing--a vessel that rushed forward as a tiger rushes to its prey.
At first we thought it was the _Royal Sovereign_--that great, noble
ship which transmits a name down from Bluff Harry's days--then knew we
were mistaken. It was the _Torbay_, Vice-Admiral Hopson's own, in
which he flew his flag, her sails all clapt on, her cable training at
her side, where he had cut it, so as to lose no precious time, her
course direct for the boom. And after her went ourselves, as hound let
loose from leash follows hound. Captain Hardy had spoken true--'twas a
day not to be missed!

We heard a snapping, a crashing--'twas awful, too, to hear!--we heard
roar upon roar from hundreds of lusty throats in that great ship--we
knew the boom was gone--cut through as a woodsman's axe cuts through a
sapling. Amidst all the enemy's fire--fire from the French ships and
those Spanish forts on shore--we heard it. And we, too, cheered and
shouted--sent up our queen's name to the smoke-obscured heavens above.
Some cried the old watchword of past days, "St. George and England";
some even danced and jumped upon the decks for glee--danced and
jumped, even though the hail of ball was scattering us like ninepins,
or a hundred pins!--even though some lay writhing on those decks, and
some were lying there headless, armless, legless! What mattered? The
enemy were there behind that boom, and it was broken. We were amongst
them now. Let those die who must; those live who were to conquer.

Between the _Bourbon_ and _L'Espérance_ the noble _Torbay_ rushed--to
the jaws of death she went, as though to a summer cruise on friendly
seas, her anchor cables roared through her hawse-holes--Hopson had
anchored 'twixt those two great French ships! He was there; there was
to be, could be, no retreat now; 'twas death or victory.

At first it seemed as though it could alone be the first. The cannon
grinned like teeth through tier upon tier of gunboats in the
Frenchman's sides; the balls crashed into the Torbay; they did the
same with us and Vandergoes' ship, now ranged on the other side of the
_Bourbon_--a French fireship had clapt alongside of her, and set her
rigging alight; her foretopmast went by the board; her sails were all
aflame; her foreyard burnt like a dry log; her larboard shrouds burnt
at the dead-eyes.

Yet still she fought and fought--vomited forth her own flames and
destruction; still from the throats of those left alive came shouts of
savage exultation, for, all afire as she was, we saw that she was
winning. And not only she, but all of us. We had sunk one Frenchman
ourselves. Vandergoes had mastered the _Bourbon_--she was done for!
The _Association_ had silenced a battery ashore. And now a greater
thing than all happened--Chateaurenault saw that he was beaten, set
his flagship, _Le Fort_, on fire, and fled to the shore, calling on
all his captains to follow him.

Yet still one awful dread remained! The _Torbay_ was burning
fiercely, charred masts and yards were falling to the deck--itself
aflame--blocks burning like tarred wood crashed down, too. What if her
powder magazine exploded! If it did, all in her neighbourhood would be
destroyed, hurled to atoms, as she herself would be.

Almost it seemed as if that had happened now. There came a hideous
roar, a belch of black, suffocating smoke; it set all sneezing and
coughing as though a sulphur mine were afire. Yet that explosion, that
great cloud of filthy blackness, those masses of burnt and charred
wood hurled up into the air and falling with a crash on every deck
around, amidst shrieks and howls and curses terrible to hear, though
drowned somewhat by the booming of the cannon all about, was to be the
salvation of the _Torbay_, of ourselves, and of the Dutchmen.

For it was the fireship itself that had exploded. It was, in truth, a
merchantman laden with snuff, which had been hastily fitted up as one
of those craft. And in so doing the density of the fumes which it
emitted, and its falling _débris_ when it was burst asunder, helped to
put out the flames that raged in the _Torbay_ and in us.

The firing began to cease even as this happened; the enemy began to
recognise that 'twas useless. They would have been blind not to have
so recognised. On shore 'twas easy _Association_; on the water the
_Bourbon_ was ours. The lilies were hauled down, in their place
floated the banner of England; the fireship had vanished into the
elements, the great boom lay in pieces on the water like some long,
severed snake. Yet might one have wept to gaze upon the _Torbay_--the
queen and victress of this fight--and upon ourselves.

There she lay--Hopson by now in the _Monmouth_, to which he had been
forced to transfer his flag, so sad a ruin was she--listing over to
her wounded starboard side, into which the water poured in volumes, it
becoming tinged as it mixed with the blood in her scuppers; her yards
and masts were charred sticks; black bits of sooty, greasy matter,
which had once been her white sails, floated down slowly to the waves
and fell upon and dissolved into them. Also her shrouds were but burnt
pieces of rope and twine now. Upon her deck there were stretched a
hundred and twenty men, dead or dying. And with the _Pembroke_ it was
almost as bad. We were shattered and bruised, our foremast gone, our
own sails shot through and through, and hanging over the sides like
winding sheets, our own decks charnel houses. Yet we had won the
fight, the day was ours, the galleons our booty.

But were they? That was the question!

'Twas true, they were all as we had first seen them, though some, we
noticed, had been run ashore, perhaps to give them a chance of
hurriedly landing some of their cargo; but, alas! we noticed now that
they were all aflame, were burning fiercely.

And we knew well enough what this meant--meant that the French and
Spaniards had set them on fire so that we should benefit nothing
through their falling into our hands. And all of us saw it at the same
time--Rooke saw it, Hopson saw it--every man on board our English
decks who was still alive saw and understood.

By God's mercy the breeze was still blowing into the strait. Some of
us still had some sail left clinging to our bruised and battered
yards; enough to take us farther in, enough to enable the boarding
parties to row ashore, to reach those burning ships, to save
something, surely!

From all the ships' sides as we ran up as far as we could toward where
they lay, came now the hoarse grating of the ropes running through the
blocks as the boats were lowered. Into those boats leaped swarms of
men, their cutlasses ready, their pistols in their hands, their eyes
inflamed with the lust of plunder, wild oaths and jokes, curses--and,
sometimes, prayers that we were not too late--upon their lips.

And in our cutter I went, too--appointed to the command of her in
place of the lieutenant who should have taken that command, but who
now lay dead upon the _Pembroke's_ deck, a dozen balls in his body.

Jostling one another--for there were scores of boats lowered by now,
and all making their way, under either sail or the seamen's brawny
arms, to where those burning galleons lay--we rushed through the half
mile of water that separated us from them, all eager to board and be
amongst the spoil. And woe, I thought, to him or them who, when we
were there, should strive to bar our entrance! Our blood was up,
fevered by the carnage of the earlier hours; woe to them who
endeavoured to prevent our final triumph! Through wreckage of all
kinds we went, spars, yards and masts, military tops floating like
tubs, dead men face upward, living men clinging to oars and overturned
boats and shrieking to be saved, while ever still, in front of us, the
galleons burned and blazed--one blew up as we neared it, another,
spouting flames from port and window and burning to the water's edge,
sank swiftly and in a moment beneath the water.

But at last we were up to them, were beneath their bows, could see
their great figureheads and read their names--most of them so terribly
sacred that one wondered that even Spaniards should so dare to profane
those holy words by using them for their ships!

And now some orders were issued by a grey-haired officer to those
close by. The boarding parties were told off in boats of twos and
threes to the different vessels flaming before our eyes. The one which
I commanded was directed to a great vessel of three decks, having
above her upper one a huge poop-royal, and named--heavens, what a name
for a ship!--_La Sacra Familia_. And as we swept toward them all we
saw that one mercy was now to be vouchsafed. There would be no further
slaughter here; no need for more shedding of blood. The vessels were
not defended; those who had set fire to them had undoubtedly fled.

Yet up on the poop-royal of that galleon, to which we now clambered by
aid of rope and ladder--with cutlass in mouth and pistol in belt--as
well as by chains and steps, we saw there was still some human life
left. We saw a tall monk standing there, gazing down curiously at us,
his shaven crown glistening in the autumn sun. Also, it seemed as
though he smiled a welcome to us, was glad to see us; perhaps regarded
us as men who might save him from that burning mass.

We rushed on board, and first, before all other things, except a
salutation which I made to the monk by a touch of the finger to my
hat, I directed those under my command to endeavour to stifle the
fire, which seemed at present to be entirely confined to the after
part of the ship. "For," said I to those of my own following, and also
to those who had come in the other boats under the command of two
bo'suns, "if this is not done there will be no getting at the goods
whatever. Where generally is the storage made?" I asked, turning to
one of these officers.

"Faith, sir, I know not," he said, with a harsh laugh. "My account has
been ever with the king's--and now the queen's--ships. We sailors know
little of such things as stored treasure. Yet," and he again laughed,
"we have our opportunity now. If we can but quench this fire, we may
learn something."

"Perhaps," said a voice behind me, musical and deep, and greatly to my
astonishment--when I turned round and saw who its owner was, namely,
the monk--speaking in very good English, "I may be of some service
here. I have been a passenger in her since she loaded at Guayaquil,"
and his eyes met mine boldly.

They were large, roving eyes, too, jet-black and piercing, and looked
out from a dark, handsome face. A face as close-shaven as the crown,
yet with the blue tinge all over upper lip and chin and cheeks which
showed where there grew a mass of hair beneath.

"I am obliged to you, sir," I answered, touching my hat again--for his
manner proclaimed that this was no common peasant who had become a
monk because the life was easier than that of a hedger and ditcher;
but, instead, a man who knew something of the world and its
courtesies. Then, he having told me that all the plate and coin was in
the middle of the ship, and the merchandise, such as skins and
leather, Campeachy wood, quinquina, silks, indigo and cochineal in the
after part, I sent off all the men to endeavour at once to extinguish
the flames below; to cut off communication between the atmosphere and
that part of the ship which was already in flames; to close all
hatches and bulkhead doors; to stop up the crevices by which the air
could pass to the burning part, and, if possible, to separate the one
half of the vessel from the other, as well as to pour down water on
the flames.

And, half an hour later--while still I stood gazing down on the men at
their work, and still by my side stood the monk, uttering no word, but
regarding with interest all that was doing--one of the bo'suns called
up to me, saying:

"We have scotched it now, sir. There is no more fire left."



CHAPTER X.

SENOR JUAN BELMONTE.


And now I made my way below by the main hatch--for the after-companion
was all burnt, so that there was no descent by that, I being intent on
the men finding out--and setting to work at once on getting at and
landing--the specie there might be in the ship; for, although the
galleons were ours now, and 'twas a certainty that neither French nor
Spaniards could make any attempt whatsoever to recover possession of
them, there was another matter to be thought about, namely, that this
one, of which I was, so to speak, in chief command, might be so badly
injured that she might sink at any moment; and, if she did that, then
it would be goodbye to any bars of silver and gold, pistoles or
crusadoes which she might have stowed away in her, ready for the
Castile mint. And with this apprehension in my mind, I decided that
the unloading must at once begin.

But as I came down the main companion it was apparent that I must make
my way aft through the great cabin, since my men were all at work in
the hinder part of the ship; and, consequently, I put my hand to the
cabin door to open it, when I discovered that it was closed--shut
fast. Yet, even as I perceived this, while still I moved the catch
about between my fingers, wondering what I should do, and whether I
must not go back and fetch some of the sailors up from the after part
to burst open the door, I heard a footstep, light, yet firm, tapping
on the cabin deck; a footstep that, I could very well perceive, was
coming toward the closed door; and then, a moment later, I heard a
voice on the other side say something in Spanish, of which I could not
catch one word; yet I doubted not that a question had been asked as to
who I was, and what I wanted.

Remembering, however, that I stood here in the position of a captor,
remembering, too, that since all these Spanish galleons had been under
the protection of the French admiral (with also three Spanish ships of
war, though 'tis true _they_ did not count for much), I replied in the
French language, which, as I have before said, I had very well:

"I am an officer from the English fleet, and am now in charge of this
vessel. Open the door without delay."

"Are you an English officer?" the voice now said, in my own
tongue, to which I--thinking that the tones were soft, gracious ones
enough--replied:

"I am an English officer. Open the door at once."

Then I heard the bolt shot back, and entered the great cabin.

What kind of personage I had expected to find behind that door I
scarcely now can say--though I do remember well enough that, judging
by the gentle, musical voice which had replied to my summons, I should
not have been over-surprised to find myself face to face with some
Spanish woman--yet the person who appeared before me raised my
curiosity when we now stood face to face, for, certainly, I
had expected some one vastly different from him on whom I now
gazed--perhaps a Spanish sailor; a woman, as I have mentioned, or some
old don who had managed to get left behind when all the rest had fled.

Yet I saw none of these.

Instead, a youth, somewhat tall--I remember that his eyes were almost
on a level with mine, and I am tall myself--also extremely handsome,
while, to add to that handsomeness, his dress was rich, if not costly.
But first for his appearance.

Those eyes were soft, dark ones, such as, I think, our poets call
"liquid," and they looked out at me from an oval face, dark and olive
in complexion, over which the black hair curled in mighty becoming
waves, though it was not all visible, since on his head he wore a
beaver cap, looped up at one side with a steel buckle, and with, in
it, a deep crimson feather--a hat that added extremely to his boyish
beauty. For that he was a boy of almost tender years was certain. Upon
his upper lip there was that soft down which is not a moustache, but
tells only where some day a moustache will be; his colouring, too--a
deep, rich red beneath the olive skin--proclaimed extreme
youthfulness. But, what was even more agreeable than all, was the
bright, buoyant smile with which he looked at me--a smile which
flashed from those dark, soft eyes and trembled on the full, red lips,
yet seemed strangely out of place here in this captured vessel, and
upon the face of a prisoner--for such, indeed, he was.

But now--even as we were saluting of each other, and while I noticed
the easy grace with which this youth took off his beaver hat--I
noticed also the handsome satin coat he wore, the embroidered,
open-worked linen collar, and the pretty lace at his sleeves;
perceived, also, that his breeches were lined with camlet and faced
with white taffeta. I spoke to him, saying:

"Sir, I am afraid this is but a rough visit which I pay. Yet, since I
find you aboard this galleon, you must know what brings me here; must
know that it and all her consorts have fallen into our power--the
power of England and Holland."

"In faith, I know it very well," the young man answered. "Heavens,
what a cannonading you kept up! Yet--though perhaps you may deem me
heartless if I say so!--I cannot aver that I am desperate sick at the
knowledge that you have drubbed France and Spain this morning.
_Carámba!_ I am not too much in love with either, though you find me a
passenger here."

"Monsieur is not then either French or Spanish?" I hazarded, while he
unstrapped his blade from its _porte-epée_ and flung it on the cabin
locker as though it wearied him. "Perhaps English, to wit. And of the
West Indies? A passenger taking this ship as a means whereby to reach
his native land?"

He looked at me with those soft dark eyes--I know not even now why
they brought up the thought of velvet to my mind--paused a moment then
said:

"Monsieur, I do protest you are a wizard, a conjuror, a geomancer. In
truth you have hit it. I am English, though not by birth--but subject
to England."

"I should scarce have thought, indeed," I ventured to say, "that
monsieur was of English blood."

"No?" with a slight intonation. "And why not? I flatter myself that I
have the English very well."

"You have it perfectly," I replied, making a little bow, "but scarce
the English look. Now a Spaniard--a Frenchman--I would have ventured
to say, judging by your appearance, to----"

Again that merry laugh rang out, and again that handsome youth told me
I must be a wizard. "For," said he, "you have pinked me in the very
spot. My mother was a Spaniard--my father a Frenchman. And we have
lived so long in Jamaica that I speak English like an Englishman: You
see?"

Then almost before I could answer that I did see and understand, this
handsome youth--who seemed as volatile as a butterfly!--began to sing
softly to himself:


         "And have you heard of a Spanish lady?
           How she wooed an Englishman?
          Garments gay and rich as may be,
           Decked with jewels, had she on."


While at the same time he picked up an instrument which I learned
later was known as a viol d'amore, and began to produce sweet sounds
from it.

Now, this youth won so much upon me, what with his appearance--and
already I found myself wondering what the ladies must think of
him!--and his light, merry nature, that, had other things been
different, I could very well have passed the whole day with him in
this main cabin, only there was duty to be done. By now I knew that
the men would most like have reached the bullion chests and be ready
for getting them out; wherefore, the moment he ceased his song, I said
as courteously as may be:

"I have to leave you now, sir--there is work to be done in this ship
by nightfall. Yet, since you say you are a British subject, we must
take some care of you. Will you come with me to see one of the
admirals, who will dispose of you as best may be? If you seek to reach
England, doubtless they can put you in the way--give you a passage--or
what do you propose doing?"

For answer he shrugged his shoulders indifferently, then said:

"England is my destination--yet there is no pressing hurry. I am on my
road to seek some friends there, but I mind not if I tarry a little.
One of these friends--oh! a dear old creature, a Saint, I think--I
have been bent on finding for some years now. And I shall find him.
Then--but no matter! A few more weeks in comparison with those years
matter but little. I shall find him. Oh, yes. I have no fear."

I, too, shrugged my shoulders now--for this was, after all, no answer
to my question; then I said:

"But how will you proceed? You can scarce stay here--this galleon will
probably be sunk by the admiral directly she is unloaded. What will
you do?"

He shrugged his shoulders with a look of extreme indifference,
muttering something in Spanish, which I thought might be a proverb;
then said: "Indeed, sir, I do not know. But this admiral of yours,
what will he do with me--where take me if I go with you? I thought to
ship at one time from Cadiz to England; then, later, when I learned we
were coming in here, I thought to travel by land to some near port and
find a vessel for the same place. Now I know not what to do."

Neither did I know what to suggest that he should do, except that
I told him it was very certain he must see the admiral, who, without
any doubt, I thought, would find him an opportunity of reaching
England--would probably take him with the fleet.

"And," I went on, "this should be of some service to you, in the way
of money, at least. 'Twill be a good thing for you to be put on
English ground at no cost to yourself. Also, you may have goods or
specie in this ship, which can be saved for you. And then, too, you
will be near those friends you speak of--that one, especially, who is
a Saint--who will doubtless help and assist you."

Again I saw the bright, luminous smile come upon his features, as he
answered:

"Ay! he would assist me, no doubt. Oh! yes. _Mon Dieu!_ Yes! Beyond
all doubt. And he will be so glad to see me. We have not met for some
time. But, sir, I thank you very much for your concern about me. Only,
as far as money goes, I am not needy. I have bills about me now, drawn
on the old Bank of Castile, and also on some goldsmiths of London, as
well as some gold pieces in my pocket. While as for the goods or
specie you speak of--why, never fear! Neither this galleon nor any
other has a pistole's worth of aught that belongs to me on board--the
risk was too great with the seas swarming with English ships of war.
No, sir, beyond the box which contains my necessaries, I stand to lose
nothing."

"I rejoice to hear it," I said, "though doubtless, since you are a
British subject, all that belonged to you would have been sacred. Yet,
even as 'tis, 'tis better so." Then, seeing the bo'sun at the cabin
door, pulling his long matted hair by form of salute, and, doubtless,
wondering what kept me so long away from him and his men, I said: "Now
I must leave you for a time. Yet it will not be long. I trust you have
all you require to sustain you until we reach the ship I am attached
to."

But even as I spoke, and without listening much to his answer, which
was to the effect that a good meal had been eaten that morning before
the battle began, and that, if necessary, he knew very well where to
lay his hands on some food, a thought struck me which I wondered had
not occurred to me before during my interview with him. Therefore,
turning to him, I said:

"But how comes it that I find you here alone--or all alone but for the
reverend monk whom I saw above? How is it that you and he did not
desert the ship as the others must have done?"

"Oh! as for that," he replied, still with that sweet smile of his, and
still with that bright, careless air which he had worn all through,
and which caused him to appear superior to any of the melancholy as
well as uncomfortable circumstances by which he was surrounded, "as
for that, the explanation is simple enough." Then, speaking rapidly
now, he went on:

"We saw your great ships break the boom; ha! _por Diôs_, 'twas grand,
splendid. We saw your ships range themselves alongside the Frenchmen,
saw them crash into them their balls, set them afire, destroy them.
_Espléndido! Espléndido! Espléndido!_" he exclaimed, bursting into the
Spanish in his excitement. "Poof! away went the _Bourbon_, topping
over on her side, up went the fireship--we heard your shouts and
cries, heard the great English seamen singing their songs. I tell you
it was glorious. _Magnifico!_ Only--these creatures here--the
_canailles_--these _desperdicios_--these--_Diôs!_ I know not the word
in English--thought not so. 'Great God!' screamed Don Trebuzia de
Vera, our captain--a miserable pig, a coward. 'Great God, they win
again, these English dogs; curse them! they never lose, we are lost!
lost! lost! And see,' he bellowed, 'the French admiral lands, he
flees, deserts his ship, ha! sets it afire. Flee we, too, therefore.
Flee! Away! To the boats, to the shore, to the mountains. Away! They
come nearer. Away, all, or there will not be a whole throat amongst
us.'"

"We knowed that was what would happen," chuckled the bo'sun, who still
stood at the open door, his fierce face lit up with a huge grin of
approval. "Go on, young sir. Tell us the tale."

And, scarce heeding him, the youth, who had recovered his breath, went
on:

"They obeyed him--they fled. Into the water, up the rocks, off inland
they went. They never cast a thought to us, to Padre Jaime and myself,
the only two passengers in the ship. Not they--they cared no jot
whether we were blown up, or shot, or sunk, no more than they thought
of their ingots in the hold. Their wretched lives were all in all to
them now."

"Therefore they fled and left you here!"

"They fled and left us here, setting fire first to the ship, and
caring nothing if we were burnt in it or not. Though that could scarce
have happened, I think, since it would have been easy enough for us to
plunge into the water and get ashore. Also the reverend father above
bade me take heart--though I needed no such counsel, having never lost
mine--averred that your side had won, that the next thing would be the
arrival of your boats to secure the plunder--which has fallen out as
he said--and that then both he and I would be safe. Which also has
come to pass," he concluded.

"The reverend father appears to be well versed in the arts of war,
captures and so forth," I remarked, as now we made our way together to
the waist of the ship, followed by the bo'sun. "A strange knowledge
for one of his trade!"

"_Por Diôs!_" the young fellow said, "'tis not so strange, neither, as
you will say if ever you get him to speak about the strange places in
which he has pursued his ministrations. Why, sir, he has assisted at
the death of many a dying sinner of the kind we have in our parts,
held cups of water to their burning lips, wiped the sweat of death
from off their brows. Oh!" he said, stopping by one of the galleon's
great quarter deck ports, in which the cowards who fled from the
heavily armed ship had left a huge loaded brass cannon run out, which
they had not had the spirit to fire; stopping there and laying a long,
slim hand upon my arm--while I noticed that the nails were most
beautifully shaped--"Oh! he has been in some strange places; seen
strange things, the siege and plunder of Maracaibo, to wit, and many
other places; seen blood run like water."

"The siege and plunder of Maracaibo!" I found myself repeating as we
drew near the fore-hatches, which were now open. "The siege and
plunder of Maracaibo!" Where had I heard such words as these before,
or words like them? Where? where? On whose lips had I last heard the
name of Maracaibo?

And, suddenly, I remembered that that wicked old ruffian, who had been
fellow-passenger with me in _La Mouche Noire_ had mentioned that place
to the filthy black who was his servant--or his friend.

And--for what reason I know not, for there was no sequence whatsoever
in such thoughts and recollections--I recalled his drunken and
frenzied shouts to some man whom he called Grandmont; his questions
about some youth nineteen years old, who was like to be by now grown
up to be a devil like that dead Grandmont to whom he imagined he was
speaking.

Which was, if you come to think of it, a strange sort of recollection,
or memory, to be evoked simply through my hearing again the name of
that tropic town of Maracaibo mentioned by this handsome young man.



CHAPTER XI.

FATHER JAIME.


Under the direction of the second bo'sun, the men who had all come
into the ship with me had now gotten the battens off and had lifted
the hatch hoods--for although it has taken some time to write down my
meeting and interview with this young gentleman, it had not, in very
fact, occupied more than twenty minutes--and I found them already
beginning to bring up some large chests and boxes with strange marks
upon them.

Also, I found standing close by the opening the monk whom the young
man had called Father Jaime, he being engaged in peering down into the
hold with what seemed to me a great air of interest, which was not,
perhaps, very strange, seeing that the treasure below was now destined
for a far different purpose from that for which it was originally
intended.

He turned away, however, from this occupation on seeing us approach,
and said quietly, in the rich, full voice which I had previously
noticed, to the young man by my side:

"So, Señor Juan, you have found a friend, I see. You are fortunate.
This way you may light on your road to England."

"And you, sir, what is your destination, may I ask?" I said, for I
knew I should soon have to decide what to do with him. The grey-haired
officer had given me, among other hurried instructions, one to the
effect that anything which was brought up from below was to be
instantly sent off to Sir George Rooke's flagship; and 'twas very easy
to see that there was none too much specie in this ship--while I knew
not what was to be done with the merchandise. Therefore, the time was
now near at hand for me to return and report myself, taking with me my
findings, while, also, I should have to take with me these two whom I
had discovered left behind on board.

Father Jaime bowed graciously on my asking this question--indeed, he
was a far more courteous and well bred man than I, perhaps in my
ignorance, had ever supposed would have been found amongst his
class--and replied: "I, sir, have to present myself at Lugo, where
there is a monastery to which I am accredited." Then, with an
agreeable smile, he continued:

"I trust I shall not be detained. Already I am two years behind my
time--as is our young friend here, Señor Juan Belmonte, and----"

"Two years!" I exclaimed.

"In truth, 'tis so," my young gentleman, whose name I now learned,
replied. "Two years. These galleons should have sailed from Hispaniola
that length of time ago, only so many things have happened. First
there was the getting them properly laden, then the fear of
filibusters and buccaneers----"

"That fear exists no longer, my son," the monk interrupted. "They are
disbanded, broken up, gone, dispersed. There will be no more
buccaneering now, the saints be praised."

He said: "the saints be praised yet had he not worn the holy garb
he did, I should have almost thought that he said it with regret.
Indeed, were it not for his shaven crown and face, he would not have
ill-befitted the general idea I had formed of those gentry--what with
his stalwart form, bold, fierce eyes and sun-browned visage.

"Ay, the saints be praised!" the young señor repeated after him,
"the saints be praised. They were the curse of the Indies--I am
old enough to remember that. Yet, now, all are gone, as you say,
dispersed--broken up. Pointis has done that, and death and disease.
Still, where are they?--those who are alive--I wonder."

"There are few alive now," the monk replied, "and those of no worth.
Recall, my son, recall what we know happened in the Indies. Kidd is
taken, Grogniet dead, Le Picard executed. Townley--a great man
that!--I--I mean, a great villain--fell with forty wounds in his body;
at Guayaquil nine brave--nine vagabonds--left dead; and more, many
more."

"And the villain Gramont"--and now I started; was this whom he called
Gramont the man that old vagabond Carstairs had spoken of--as I
supposed--as Grandmont?--"forget not the greatest of them all, holy
father. What of him?"

"He died at sea. Drowned," Father Jaime replied. Then added: "He was
the boldest of them all."

"'Twas never known for certain that he was so drowned," Belmonte said.

"'Twas known for certain; is certain. I have spoken with those who saw
his ship's boats floating near where he must have been cast away and
lost. Fool that he was! Madman! Louis the King gave him his
commission, made him Lieutenant du Roi. Then, because the devil's
fever was hot in his blood, he must make one more of his accursed
cruises, and go filibustering thus, besieging towns, plundering and
destroying once more. The fool! to do it 'neath the King's lilies--to
ruin himself forever, when he was rich, rich--ah, heavens! how rich he
was! 'Tis well for him that he was drowned--disappeared forever.
Otherwise the wheel would have been his portion. And," he added after
a pause, "righteously so. Righteously so!"

Stopping as he said those words, he saw that we were regarding him
with interest--for, indeed, had this drowned buccaneer been a friend
of his he could scarcely have spoken with more fervency--then added,
impressively:

"My sons, I knew that man--that Gramont; and I--I pitied him. Knowing
his fate, and much of his life, I pity him still."

Then he turned away and began telling of his beads as he strode up and
down the deck. And I, remembering all I had overheard the man
Carstairs say, determined that, if the chance arose, I would ask the
reverend father if he had known this Carstairs, too; for I had
sufficient curiosity in my composition to desire to learn something
more about that hoary-headed old vagabond, though 'twas not at all
likely that I should ever set eyes on him again.

That chance was not now, however, since at this moment there came
alongside the whole flotilla of boats, which had been despatched
severally to the various galleons, they being at this time all
collected together ere going back to the admiral, and needing only us
to make them complete. Wherefore, giving orders to have all the chests
and boxes which we had unearthed placed in our own boats, we stepped
over the side, I motioning to the father and the señor to take their
places by me.

"Your necessaries," I said, "can be fetched away later, when 'tis
decided how your respective journeys are to be brought to an end."

And now, ere I get on with what I have to tell, it is fitting that--to
make an end of this siege of Vigo, which, indeed, reinstated later, in
the opinion of the Parliament and their countrymen, all those who had
failed at Cadiz--I set down what was the advantage to England of this
taking of the galleons, though, in truth, that advantage was far more
in the crushing blow it administered to the French sea service than in
aught else; for it broke that service's power more than aught else had
done since the time of La Hogue, ten years ago; and it crippled France
so upon the waters that, though she still continued to fight us boldly
whenever we met, she was able to do but very little harm in that way.

Of the fifteen great ships of war which the French admiral,
Chateaurenault, commanded, five were burned up, some being set alight
by themselves ere they fled, the others by us. Four others were run
ashore and bulged. Five more, not so badly injured, were taken home by
our fleet, and afterward did us good service against their old
masters, these being _Le Prompte_, _L'Assure_, _Le Firme_, _Le
Modère_, and _Le Triton_; while the remaining one, _Le Bourbon_, was
captured, as I have said, by Vandergoes, and fell to the share of the
Dutch. Then, of their frigates, we burnt two, and also a fireship
other than the merchantman loaded with snuff. Also, we burnt and
destroyed three Spanish men-of-war.

As to the galleons, eight of them were sunk by their owners, the
others were divided between our Dutch friends and ourselves. And this
is what we got for our share: A few ingots of gold, several bars of
silver and some jewels--the principal thing of worth amongst these
being a great crown of gold set with rubies; a gold crucifix enriched
with many stones, seven hundred pounds' weight of silver bars, many
cases of silver ore, and some enormous cases of plate. Also, there was
much cochineal, tobacco, logwood, cocoa, snuff and sugar, some of
which was saved and some was sunk to the bottom. And the gold and
silver was afterward taken to our English mint and coined into
five-pound pieces, crowns, half-crowns and shillings, each piece
having "Vigo" stamped beneath the queen's head, thereby to distinguish
it. Later on, and somewhat later, too--it was when I drew my share of
the prize money, to which I became entitled as having taken part in
that great fight--I observed that my pieces had that word upon them.

But alas! there should have been much more, only the galleons had lain
twenty-five days within that harbour ere we got to them, and, during
that time, they had landed much which had been sent on to Lugo, and,
had it not been for that foolish Spanish punctilio, which would not
allow anything to be done hastily, they would have gotten all of their
goods and precious things ashore. Only, because they should have gone
into Cadiz and discharged there, and had instead come to Vigo, much
delay happened ere the order for their doing so was given. Which was
very good for us.

Our loss, considering the fierce fight both sides made of it, was not
considerable. Hopson, his ship, because she had borne the brunt of the
encounter, did suffer the most, she having one hundred and fifteen of
her sailors killed on the deck or drowned, with nine wounded; the
_Barfleur_ and the _Association_ had each but two men killed; the
_Mary_ lost none; the _Kent_ had her bo'sun wounded, while for
ourselves, we had many wounded, but none that I know of killed. Of
those who went ashore to attack the Fort of Redondella under his Grace
of Ormond, none of much note were slain, but Colonel Pierce got a bad
wound from a cannon shot fired by one of our own men-of-war, and some
other colonels were also wounded.

'Twas through a mighty mass of wreckage and floating spars, masts
and yards, that we passed toward the _Royal Sovereign_, which lay back
a bit and was nearest the mouth of the strait and beyond where that
boom had been, and as we did so I saw my young gentleman, Señor
Belmonte, turn somewhat pale as he observed the terrible traces which
battles--and more particularly sea battles--always leave behind.
Indeed, the soft red flush leapt to his cheeks, and the full scarlet
lips themselves looked more white than red as his eyes glanced down at
the objects that went a-floating by on the water; and, perhaps, since
he was so young, 'twas not very strange that these sights should have
sickened him. For there passed us dead men with half their heads blown
off; others with a terrible grin of agony upon their faces; some with
half their inwards dragging alongside them like cords--the waves all
tinged a horrid reddish brown--while hats, wigs and other things
floating by as the tide made, were but cruel sights for so young a
man--and he, probably, no fighter--to see. And, after such a lusty
encounter as this had been, one could not hope to witness anything
much better.

As for the monk--on whom I could not but instinctively fix my eyes now
and again, for (although I could not have told why) the man had
fascinated me with the knowledge which he seemed to have once
possessed of all those hideous filibusters and sea rovers who now, he
said, were dead and gone and driven off the ocean--he seemed to regard
these things as calmly and impassibly as though he sat in some lady's
boudoir. His dark eyes, 'twas true, flashed here and there and all
around--now on a headless man, and now on the contorted features of
another, but he paled not, nor did he express or give any sign of
interest in aught until we ran alongside our noble _Royal Sovereign_,
when he cast his eye approvingly over her.

"A great vessel," he said, "a mighty craft! Worthy to represent her
great country"; then grasped the life line hanging down, as I motioned
him to ascend her gangway, and went on board as calmly as though
accustomed to going over the sides of ships every day of his life.
From the main shrouds there hung a flag when we stepped on board,
which I have since learned to know denoted that a council of war was
being held in the ship; also there were many captains' gigs and some
admirals' barges all about her, so that 'twas plain enough to see,
even without that flag, that a consultation was taking place on board.
And scarce had I given my orders for the chests to be hauled in than
the first lieutenant approached me and asked very courteously if I was
not Lieutenant Crespin.

A moment later I was being ushered into the great main cabin, leaving
my two companions on the deck for the present--and in another instant
was making my salutations to the grey-haired admiral, Sir George
Rooke, who sat at the head of the table, and to his Grace, the Duke of
Ormond--a brave, handsome soldier--who had come on board after taking
of the Fort of Redondella.

And now I pass over the many flattering things said to me by those
great officers seated there--since we had flown straight to Vigo after
the _Pembroke_ had picked up the fleet at sea, and had at once been
occupied in our preparations for taking of the galleons, this was the
first time we had met--over, also, the compliments paid me for the
manner in which I had made my way from Holland to Cadiz and Lagos.
Suffice it that both Sir George Rooke and the duke told me that my
services would not be forgot, and that when I returned to my Lord
Marlborough I should not go unaccompanied by their commendations.
However, enough of this. And now I told my tale of the morning, and of
the two persons I had found on board _La Sacra Familia_--told, too,
that they were at this moment on board the Royal Sovereign, I having
deemed it best to bring them along with me.

"Let us see them," said Rooke, and straightway bade his flag
lieutenant go bring them in.

But I think that, although I had told all assembled at this board what
kind of persons these were whom I had discovered in the ship, all the
admirals, generals and captains were astonished at their appearance
when they stood before them; while so handsome a show of it did my
young Señor Belmonte make, that, perhaps almost unknowing what he did,
Admiral Hopson pushed a chair toward him and bade him be seated. And
because such courtesy could not be shown to one of these visitors
without the same being extended to the other, the monk was also
accommodated with a chair in which he sat himself calmly, his eyes
roving round all those officers assembled there.

"You were passengers in this galleon--the--the--_Sacra Familia?_" Sir
George said, glancing at a paper in his hand, on which I supposed the
names of all the captured ships were written down, "and as this
officer tells me, are anxious to proceed to your destination. Will you
inform me of what that destination is, so that we may assist you in
your desire?"

"Mine," exclaimed Señor Juan--and as his sweet, soft voice uttered the
words musically, all eyes were turned on him, "is England eventually;
yet," and he smiled that gracious smile which I had seen before, "my
passage was but paid to Spain--and I am in Spain. Beyond being
permitted to go ashore here with my few necessaries, I know not that I
need demand any of your politely proffered assistance."

Sir George shrugged his shoulders while he looked attentively at the
handsome young man--who, I thought, to speak truth, received the
civilities of his speech with somewhat too much the air of one
accustomed to having homage and consideration paid to him--then he
said quietly:

"That, of course, shall be done at once. There can be no obstacle to
that. We only regret that the rigours of war have caused us to
inconvenience any ordinary passenger. You have of course your papers."

"Yes, I have them here," and he produced from his breast a bundle, at
which Sir George glanced lightly.

Then he turned to Father Jaime, who preserved still the look of
calmness which had distinguished him all through. Yet I wondered, too,
that he should have done so, for he had been subjected to even more
scrutiny than Belmonte had been, perhaps because of the garb he wore;
scrutiny that, in one instance at least, would have disquieted a less
contained man, since Admiral Hopson, I noticed, had scarcely ever
taken his eyes off him since he had entered the cabin, or, when he had
taken them off, had instantly refixed them so upon his countenance
that 'twas very palpable to me that the man puzzled him. But what need
to describe that look which all the world has often seen on the face
of one who is endeavouring to recall to himself where, or whether, he
has ever seen another before.

"And you, sir?" the admiral asked.

"My destination," the monk replied, his voice firm, full and sonorous
as before, "is the Abbey of Lugo; and since 'tis far nearer here than
Cadiz, I can scarce regret finding myself at Vigo, instead of at the
latter place."

And, even as he spoke, I saw Hopson give a slight start and look even
more intently at him than before.

Then he bent forward toward Father Jaime, and said quietly: "Reverend
sir, is it possible that we have ever met before? In the West Indies,
to wit?"



CHAPTER XII.

WHAT DID THE ADMIRAL DISCOVER?


Not a month had elapsed ere I stood alone on the beach of Viana, which
is in the province of Entre-Douro-é-Minho, in Portugal, and watched,
with somewhat sad thoughts in my mind, the white foresail and mainsail
of the _Pembroke's_ jolly boat rising and falling on the waters as,
gradually, it made its way out to sea to where, a league off, there
lay the English fleet. The English fleet, and bound for England!

Vigo was freed of its enemies and captors; over night, at dark, the
whole of the British forces had cleared out of the bay, and, this
morning, Juan Belmonte and myself had been put ashore at this
miserable Portuguese town, or rather village, lying some twenty miles
south of the Spanish frontier.

Briefly, this was the reason why I found myself standing alone upon
this beach watching that fast disappearing boat, while, walking up to
the town, went Señor Juan to seek for lodgings for us for the night.

After that council was concluded on board the _Royal Sovereign_--and
from which Father Jaime, Belmonte and myself had retired after our
interview with the admirals--the conclusion had been arrived at that,
the work being done here--namely, the French fleet in our power and
the Spanish galleons destroyed--it would be impolitic as well as
unnecessary for the English to remain any longer in the place. This
decision was, however, come to totally against the desire of the Duke
of Ormond, who himself was anxious to take possession of the town of
Vigo, to lie there during the winter months, and, in the spring, to
open again the campaign against France in that portion of Spain.
Unfortunately, however, for this idea--which was in fact a mighty good
one, and, if carried out, might have gone far toward crippling France
even more than she was eventually crippled--it was impossible. There
were no provisions whereby his army could be sustained for the winter,
nor had Rooke a sufficiency in his ships to provide him with, and
neither would the admiral consent to leave behind a portion of his
fleet with which--should it come to that--the duke could escape in
case of necessity.

"For," said he to Ormond, as I learnt, "you have seen, my Lord Duke,
the disaster which has followed on our enemies trusting themselves
within this narrow and landlocked bay. Would your Grace, therefore,
think it wise to follow their bad example and give them an opportunity
which, doubt not, they would take as soon as possible, of retaliating
upon us?"

And to this Ormond could but shrug his shoulders, being able to find
no answer to such remark. Therefore, at last--for all was not decided
on the instant, but only after many more councils and much further
argument--it was resolved that the fleet should remain no longer, nor,
of course, the land forces neither.

But while all these determinations were being come to, I had had more
than one interview with Rooke and Ormond (both of whom had entertained
and made much of, nor ceased ever their commendations of, me), since
it was very necessary that a decision should be come to as to what was
to be my future course. For my work was done, my connection with this
fleet over; I had no more business there. It was time I got back to my
own regiment. Only how to get there--that was the question!

"You will scarce find at any port, Spanish or Portuguese," said the
admiral to me, "a vessel putting to sea now; the risk is too great.
For, consider, we are all about, and none know what may be our next
move--this one has frightened all this part of the world. Then that
old dog, Benbow, lieth in wait farther up. While to make the seas
still more dangerous, the French ships of war and the privateers are
everywhere. In truth, all traffic on the water is at an end for a
time."

"Tis not so on land, though, sir," I ventured to say, "with a good
horse I would undertake----"

"What!" exclaimed Ormond, with a laugh, "not surely to make your way
to Flanders by land! You would scarce try that."

"Ay! but I would, though, my Lord Duke," I said, laughing, too, at the
look of amazement on his face. "In very truth, I would. I have thought
it all over."

"'Tis impossible! You would never arrive."

"Your Grace, I think I should. Permit me to explain. We are here in
Spain----"

"Ay," said Rooke, interposing, "and so we are. But, Mr. Crespin, you
would never get ashore, or, getting there, would never escape out of
Vigo. Remember, the town itself is not in our hands, and the moment we
were gone you would be set upon, or, even though you should be
unmolested while we remain here, you would be followed from Vigo
and----"

"Sir," I interrupted in my excitement, "this is my plan: There
is a seaport hard by here, called Viana, and 'tis in Portuguese
territory--therefore neutral--yet inclining more to us than to
France."

"Aye," said Rooke, "and will come over to us ere long. The king leans
to our side the most, because we are strongest on the seas--this
taking of the galleons will decide him."

"Meanwhile," I went on, "'tis neutral. Now, from there I can make my
way to Spain----"

"There's the rub! When you are in Spain. And afterward, in France.
What then?"

"In both countries I can be a Frenchman," and now I saw these two
great officers look at me attentively. "I have the French tongue very
well--well enough to pass through Spain as a Frenchman, while--when in
France--I can pass as a Spaniard who knows the French."

"'S heart!" exclaimed Ormond, slapping of the table with his be-ringed
hand, "but I would you were in one of my regiments. You have a brain
as well as a stalwart form. You must go far; and shall, if my word is
any good with Jack Churchill."

"My Lord Duke, you are most gracious. Yet may I not ask if the plan is
a fair one? At least, remembering that, by sea, the way is closed."

Fair or not fair, at least I brought them to it--more especially
since, even though they had most utterly disapproved of my proposed
method, they could neither of them have opposed it. For I was the Earl
of Marlborough's officer; nay, more, I was his own particular and
private messenger; I had come under his orders, and was still under
them. Moreover, his last words to me had been: "Do your duty; fulfil
the task I charge you with; then make your way back to me as best you
can." That was all, yet enough.

Therefore it was arranged without more demur, though Sir George Rooke,
who was now growing old, shook his head somewhat gravely, even as he
ceased endeavouring to turn me from what I had resolved on.

"For," said he, kindly, "I like it not. You are still young--some
years off thirty, I should suppose--and you are a good soldier--too
good to be spared to any crawling Spaniard's knife or to fall into any
truculent Frenchman's hands. And I would have taken you to England and
put in the first queen's ship for Holland, had you chosen. Still, as
you will, you will. Only, be very careful."

"Sir!" I said, touched at his fatherly consideration. "Be sure I will.
Yet I think I can take care of myself. I have a good sword and a
strong arm, and--well, one bullet is much the same as another. If one
finds me in Spain or France, 'twill be no worse than one in Flanders.
And, perhaps, my bullet is not moulded yet!"

As for his Grace, he took a different tack, he being younger and more
_débonnair_ than the admiral.

"Oddsbobs," he said, "bullets are bullets, and may be a soldier's lot
or not. But for you, Lieutenant, I fear a worse danger. You are a
good-looking fellow enough, with your height and breadth, blue eyes
and brown hair. Rather, therefore, beware of the Spanish girls, and
keep out of their way--or, encountering them, give them no cause for
jealousy! Oh! I know them, and--well, they are the devil! 'Tis they
who wield the knife--as often as not against those whom they loved
five minutes back."

And, looking at the duke--who was himself of great manly beauty--I
could well enough believe he knew what he was talking of. For, if all
reports were true--but this matters not.

The time had not, however, yet come, for some day or so, for me to set
out, since 'twas arranged that I should be put ashore by one of the
_Pembroke's_ boats when the fleet went out of the bay, and that then
my last farewell would be made to those amongst whom I had now lived
for some weeks. Meanwhile, Sir George asked me what had become of my
young friend, the Spanish gentleman, whom he called my "captive."

Now, this young captive had had still another interview with him after
that first one, Sir George having sent for him from the Pembroke, into
which he had been temporarily received as a guest--since _La Sacra
Familia_ had been sunk by us after being dismantled of all in her of
any worth--and he had once more renewed his offer of taking him to
England. And it surprised me exceedingly--I being present at this
interview--to observe the extraordinary courtesy and deference which
he--who was more used to receive deference from his fellow-men than to
accord it--showed to the youth; for he took him very graciously by the
hand when he entered the cabin, led him to a seat, and, when there,
renewed once more that offer of which I have spoken.

Indeed, his politeness was so great that I began to wonder if, by any
chance, the admiral knew of this young man being any one of extreme
importance, to whom it might be worth his while, as the chief
representative of England here, to pay court. Yet, so silly was that
wonderment that I dismissed it instantly from my mind, deciding that
it was pity for his youth and loneliness which so urged the other.

"If you would go with us," he said, sitting by Belmonte's side, and
speaking in the soft, well bred tones which were special to him, "you
should be very welcome, I assure you, sir; and I do not say this as a
sailor speaking to one who has by chance fallen into his hands, so to
put it, but as an old man to a--to a young one; for, sir, I have
children myself, some young as you, some older; have sons and--and
daughters, and I should be most grateful to all who would be kind to
them."

Now, as he spoke thus there became visible in Señor Juan another trait
of character which I had scarce looked to see, it proving him to be a
youth of great susceptibility. For, as the admiral made his kindly
speech, I saw the beautiful dark eyes of the young man fill with
tears--'twas marvellous how handsome he appeared at this moment--and,
a second later, he had seized the old man's hand and had clasped it to
his breast and kissed it.

But, even as he performed this action, I also saw Sir George start a
little, give, indeed, what was but the faintest of starts; yet beneath
the bronze upon his manly face there rose a colour which, had he not
been a sailor, and that a pretty old one, might have appeared to be a
blush. But because he was so manly and so English himself--being
always most courteous and well bred, though abhorring, as it seemed to
me, all signs of emotion--I concluded that this foreign style of
salutation did not commend itself over-much to him; yet he listened
very courteously, deferentially almost, it appeared, to the words of
gratitude which the youth was now pouring out--words of gratitude for
his offer, yet combined also with an absolute refusal of that offer.

"Very well; since you will not, sir," he said, when the young man had
finished, "there is no more to be done. Yet, take a word of warning
from me, I beseech you. You will find it hard to reach England in a
better way than I have suggested to you. Both France and Spain must be
overrun with troops of all kinds at this time and--if you fall into
their hands with your papers about you, showing you are an English
subject--it may go hard. Also"--and now he tapped the cabin deck with
his red-heeled shoe and looked down at it for a moment--"also--you are
extremely well favoured. That, too, may injure you should--should--but,"
he went on, and without concluding his last sentence, "you understand
what I mean," and now he gazed at Señor Juan with clear, frank eyes;
gazed straight into his own.

For the life of me I could not understand what he was driving at, even
if the youth himself could; since how a man should be injured by his
good looks, even though in a hostile country, I failed to conceive.
Certain, however, it was that the other understood well enough Sir
George's meaning--his next action showed plainly enough that he did.

For now the rich warm colouring left his soft downless cheeks, even
the full lips became pale, and he lifted his long slim hand and thrust
it through the clusters of curls that hung over his forehead, as
though in some distress of mind; then said, a moment later, looking up
now and returning the admiral's glance fearlessly, while speaking very
low.

"Yes, I understand. Yet, Señor, have no fear."

But I noticed, all the same, that he lifted his other hand as though
to deprecate Sir George saying another word, which gesture he too
seemed quite to understand, since he gave a half bow very solemnly ere
he turned away.

Later, after Señor Juan had departed, and when Admiral Hopson had come
over to the _Royal Sovereign_, to prepare for another of those endless
councils which took place daily, Sir George looked up at me from some
papers he was perusing, and said: "You are in the _Pembroke_, Mr.
Crespin. Where have they bestowed that young man?"

"He is very comfortable, sir," I replied. "They have given him a spare
cabin in the after flat."

"And the officers? Do they make him welcome, treat him with courtesy?"

"Oh, yes, indeed. He is popular with them already, sings them sweet
songs accompanied by that instrument of his; is a rare hand at tricks
of all kinds with the pass-dice and cards, and so forth. They will
miss him when he has gone."

"Humph! Does he say who or what he is--which island in the Indies he
belongs to--who are his kith and kin?"

"He says not much, sir, on that score; except that he is well enough
to do--is traveling more or less to kill time--cares very little where
he goes to for the present, so that he sees the world. As for his
home, he appears best acquainted with Jamaica."

"Ha!" said Sir George. "He says all that, does he? Yet, though 'tis
not permissible to doubt those who stand more or less in the degree of
guests, I somewhat suspect that young man of not being all he appears
to be. There is some other reason for his voyage to Europe than that
he gives; he comes not on mere pleasure only. I know that--some day if
you ever meet him again you will very likely know it, too, Mr.
Crespin."

"Perhaps," exclaimed Admiral Hopson--who was soon to become Sir John
Hopson (with a good pension) for the gallant part he had played in the
late fight--"he was a friend of that accursed monk, although he has
not levanted as he did. And since you talk of meetings, why, i'fags, I
would like to meet that gentleman once more."

"Levanted!" Sir George and I exclaimed together. "Is the monk set
out?"

"Ay, he is," replied the other. "Went last night--the instant he could
get his necessaries out of the galleon's hold. It was discourteous,
too, since I had previously sent to crave a few words with him."

"'S faith," Sir George exclaimed with a laugh, "you are not turning
Papist, old friend, are you? Didst want the monk to shrive or confess
you, or receive you into his church?"

"Not I--no Papistical doings for me," the blunt old gentleman replied.
"The church my mother had me baptised in, and under whose blessing I
have been fighting all my life, is good enough for me to finish in.
Still, had I a foolish woman's mind to change, 'twould not be to that
man I should go."

"Why!" exclaimed Sir George, "what know you of him? Yet--yet," and he
spoke slowly, "you know the Indies, Tom--and the monks are not always
what they might be. Did you chance to know him, since you sent to
demand an interview?"

"I thought so," said the inscrutable old sea dog quietly, "wherefore I
sent asking him for a meeting. Yet, as our beloved friends the French
say, the cowl does not always make the monk. Hey? And, if 'tis the
man I think, 'twas not always the cowl and gown that adorned his
person--rather, instead, the belt and pistols, buff jerkin, scarlet
sash, long serviceable rapier handy, and--have at you, ha! one, two
and through you. Hey!"

And as he spoke he made a feint of lunging at his brother admiral with
a quill that lay to his hand.



CHAPTER XIII.

"DANGERS WORSE THAN SHOT OR STEEL--OR DEATH."


Now I return to the beach at Viana, on which I stood after having
quitted the fleet--yet still, ere I go on, I must put you in the way
of knowing how it comes about that for companion I have Señor Juan
Belmonte, who at this moment is making his way into what proved to be
a very filthy town in search of lodgings for us for the night. And
this is how it came about:

When it was decided finally that I should part from the British
squadron on the day they cleared out--they intending to anchor over
night outside of Vigo bay and to send forward some frigates scouting
ere going on their way to England--I made mention to Belmonte that
such was my intention. Also I asked him--I finding of him in his
cabin, where he was reading a Spanish book of love verses--what he
meant to do with himself, since, if he did not leave the ship when, or
before, I did, he would be forced to accept Sir George's invitation to
proceed to England with him.

"Oh, my friend!" he said, with ever the soft, gentle smile upon his
handsome features, "my friend and conqueror"--for so he had taken to
terming me--"I want no terrible journey to England in these great
fierce ships of war. Tell me, tell me, _amígo mio_, what you are going
to do yourself. Your plans! Your plans!"

"My plans," I said, seeing no reason why I should not divulge them to
him, since it was impossible he could do me any hurt, even if so
inclined, which I thought not very likely, "are simple ones. I go
ashore at Viana, find a horse--one will carry me part of the journey,
then I can get another--and so, by God's will, get to the end, to my
destination."

"But the destination. The destination. Where is it? Tell me that."

"The destination is Flanders, the seat of the present war. I am a
soldier. My place is there."

"Aye, aye," he replied. "I know. You have told me. Your service is not
with these ships nor their soldiers, but with others--a great army,
far north."

"That is it," I said.

"And you will travel all that way--mean to travel--alone!"

"I must," I said, "if I intend to get there. There is no other way."

"Take me with you!" he exclaimed, suddenly, springing impetuously to
his feet from the chair in which he sat. "Take me with you! I will be
a good companion--amuse you, sing to you, wile away the long hours,
stand by your side. If necessary," yet he said this a little slower,
and with more hesitation, as I thought, "fight with you."

Now, putting all other objections which rose to my mind away for the
moment, this last utterance of his did not recommend him very strongly
to me. "Fight for me, indeed!" I thought. "A fine fighter this would
be!--a youth who had turned pale at seeing a dead man or two floating
by in the water after the battle, or at hearing the shriek of a
wounded one as we rowed past him on our way to the _Royal Sovereign!_"

However, aloud I said:

"Señor Belmonte, I fear it cannot be as you desire. The road will be
hard and rough, the journey long; there will be little opportunity for
singing and jiggettings. Moreover, death will always be more or less
in the air. If, in Spain or France, I am discovered--nay, even
suspected of being what I am, an English soldier--'twill be short
shrift for me. I shall be deemed a spy, and shot, or hung to the
nearest tree. Take, therefore, my counsel at once, and follow it. Go
you to England in this ship, as the admiral invites you. That way you
will be safe and easy."

"No, no, no," he answered. "I will not; I will not. I will go with
you. I like you," he said, with a most friendly glance. "If--if you go
alone--if we part here--we shall never meet again. That shall not be.
I am resolved. And--and--only let me go, and I will be so good! I
promise. Will not sing a note--will--see there!" and, like a petulant
boy as he was, he seized his viol d'amore, which hung on a nail in the
cabin, and dashed it to the floor, while, a moment later, he would
have stamped his foot into it had I not stopped him. "Yes, I will
break it all to pieces. Since it offends you, I will never strike
another note on it, nor will I ever sing again--not in your hearing,
at least--though I have known some who liked well enough to hear me
play--and sing, too."

"Juan," I said, not knowing in the least why his impassioned grief
moved me so much as to address him thus familiarly, which I had never
done before, "it offends me not at all; instead, I have often listened
gratefully to the music of your voice and viol. But now--now--on such
a journey as I go it would be out of place, even if you were there,
which you must not be."

"I must. I must. I must," he answered. "I will. You called me Juan
just now--ah! you are my friend, or you would not speak thus. Oh!" he
went on, and now he clutched my arm and gazed fervently into my face,
"do not refuse. And see, think, Mervan," pronouncing my name thus, and
in a tone that would have moved a marble heart, "I shall be no trouble
to you. I can ride, oh! like a devil when I choose--I have ridden with
the Mestizos and natives in the isles--and I can use a pistol or
petronel, also a sword. See," and he whipped his rapier off the bed
where it was a-lying, drew it from its sheath impetuously, as he did
everything, and began making pass after pass through the open door of
the cabin into the gangway. "I know what to do. Also, remember, I can
speak Spanish when we are in Spain--pass for a Spaniard if 'tis
necessary--and--and--and----" he broke off, "if you will not take me
with you, why, then, I will follow you; track you like a shadow, sleep
like a dog outside the inn in which you lie warm and snug; ay! even
though you beat me and drive me away for doing so."

Again and still again I resisted, yet 'twas hard to do; for, though I
had spoken against his singings and playings, and kept ever before my
eyes the stern remembrance of my duty, which was to make my way
straight to my goal and crash through all impediments, I could not but
reflect that this bright, joyous lad by my side would help to cheer
many a lonely hour and many a gloomy mile. Yet again I spoke against
the project, putting such thoughts aside.

"Child," I said, "you do not know, do not understand. Our--my--path
will be beset with dangers. _I_ know what I am doing, what lies before
me. Listen, Juan. 'Tis more than like that I shall never reach
Flanders, never ride with my old troops again, never more feel a
comrade's hand clasped in mine; may perish by the wayside, have my
throat cut in some lonely inn, be shot in the back, taken as a spy.
Yet 'tis my duty. I am a soldier and a man; you are----"

"Yes?" with an inward catching of the breath, a flash from the dark
eyes.

"A boy; a lad; also, you say, well enough to do, with a long and happy
life before you, no call upon you to fling that life away. Juan, it
must not be."

"It shall," he said, leaning forward toward me. "It shall; I swear it
by my dead mother's memory. Boy! Lad, you say. So be it. Yet with the
will and determination of a hundred men. To-morrow, Mervan, to-night,
to-day, if I can get a boat to the great ship out there, I visit the
admiral and ask him to put me ashore with you. And he will do it.
Great as he is, in command over all you English here, I have a power
within," and he struck his breast with his hands, "a power over him
which will force him to do as I wish. Do you dare me--challenge me?"

"No," I answered quietly, though in truth somewhat amazed at his
words, while still remembering the strange deference Sir George had
shown all along to the youth. "I dare to say you may prevail--with
him."

"Aye--with him!" and now he laughed a little, showing the small pearly
white teeth, somewhat. "With him! I understand. But you mean not with
you also. Yet, with you, too, I shall prevail. I will follow you till
you give me leave to keep ever by your side. Remember, if I am not
Spanish, I have lived in Spain's dependencies. I can be very Spanish
when I choose," and again he laughed, and again the white teeth
glistened beneath the scarlet lips.

"If," I said, scarce knowing or understanding what power was
influencing me, making me a puppet in this youth's hands--yet still a
yielding one!--"the admiral gives his consent to put you ashore, then
I----"

"Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, Mervan?" he interposed quickly.

"Then I will not withhold mine. Come with me if you choose--remember,
'tis at your own risk."

In a moment his whole face was transfigured with joy. Seeing that joy,
I deemed myself almost a brute to have ever tried to drive him away
from me, although I had endeavoured to do so as much for his own
safety as my own. He laughed and muttered little pleased expressions
in Spanish which I neither understood nor am capable of setting down
here; almost I thought he would Have flung his arms around my neck and
embraced me. Indeed, it seemed as though he were about to do so, but,
suddenly recollecting himself, desisted--perhaps because he knew that
to us English such demonstrations were not palatable.

And now I have to tell how Sir George placed no obstruction in the
way, allowing him to go ashore with me; yet, when he heard that we
were to travel together the look upon his face was one of extreme
gravity, almost of sternness. Also, he maintained a deep silence for a
moment or two after I had told him such was to be the case, and sat
with his eyes fixed on me as though he were endeavouring to read my
very inmost thoughts. But at last he said quietly, and with even more
than usual of that reserve which characterised him:

"You have found out nothing about this young man yet, Mr. Crespin,
then?--know nothing more about him than you have known from the first?
Um?"

"I know nothing more, sir."

Again he paused awhile, then spoke once more, with the slightest
perceptible shrug of his shoulders as he did so:

"Very well. 'Tis your affair, not mine. You are not under my command,
but that of the Earl of Marlborough. You must do as seems best to you.
Yet have a care what you are about." Then he leant forward toward me,
and said: "Mr. Crespin, you have done extremely well--have gained a
high place in our esteem. When his Lordship reads what the Duke of
Ormond and myself have to say about you, you will find your promotion
very rapid, I think. Do not, I beseech of you--do not imperil it in
any way; do not be led away into jeopardising the bright future, the
brilliant career, that is before you. Run on no rock, avoid every
shoal that may avert your successful course."

"Sir," said, "I am a soldier with many unknown dangers before me. This
boy can add nothing to their number. Yet, sir, for your gracious
consideration for me I am deeply grateful."

Still he regarded me, saying nothing for a moment or so, then spoke
again:

"Dangers!" he said--"the dangers every honest soldier or sailor
encounters in his calling are nothing; they are our portion; must be
avoided, if may be; if not, must be accepted. And he who falls in the
battle has naught to repine at--at least he falls honourably, leaves a
clean memory behind."

"Sir!"

"But there are other dangers that are worse than shot, or steel--or
death! Many a brave soldier and sailor has gone under from other
causes than these. Mr. Crespin, I say no more--have, perhaps, said too
much, were it not that you have strangely interested me." Then,
abruptly, he went on, and as though with the intention of forbidding
any more remarks on that subject: "Captain Hardy shall be instructed
to send you both ashore on the morning after we go out. Here are some
papers from the duke and myself to the Earl of Marlborough. Be careful
of them; they relate to you alone. I--we--hope they will assist you to
go far."

I bowed and murmured my thanks, for which he observed there was no
necessity whatever, then gave me his hand and said:

"Farewell, Mr. Crespin; we may not meet again. I wish you all you can
desire for yourself. Farewell."

But he uttered no further word of warning of any kind, and so let me
go away from him wondering blindly what it was he knew of this young
man; wondering above all what it was against which he covertly put me
on my guard.

Later on--though not for some time to come--I knew and understood.

               *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I found Juan--after the sails of the boat from the _Pembroke_ had
faded into little white specks upon the surface of the water, until
they looked no bigger than the flash made by seagull's wing--found him
outside the one and only inn of this small town, lolling against the
doorpost--made dirty and greasy with the shoulders of countless
Algarvian peasants--and amusing himself by trying to make a group of
ragged children understand the pure Spanish he was speaking to them.

Then, as he saw me crossing the filthy street, he came over to meet
me--never heeding the splashing of mud administered to the handsome
long boots which he had now upon his legs, though he was dainty, too,
in his ways--and began telling me of what arrangements he had already
made for our journey.

"First, _mío amigo_," he said, joyously, "about the horses. Two are
already in command. One, a big bony creature which is for you, Mervan,
because you also are big and stalwart, and require something grand to
carry you--while for me there is a jennet with, oh! such a fiery eye
and a way of biting at everything near it. But have no fear! Once I am
on its back, and _por Diôs!_ it will do as I want, not as it wants."

I laughed, then asked if these animals were to be our own.

"Oh, yes, our own," he said. "Our very own. I have bought them--they
are ours. And, if they break down--yours, I think, must surely do
so--why, we will turn them loose into the nearest wood, and--buy some
more."

"At this rate we shall spend some money ere we strike Flanders," I
said.

"Ho! Ho! Money--who cares for money! I have plenty, enough for you and
me, too. We will travel comfortably, _mon ami_; have the best of
everything. Plenty of money, and--and, Mervan, do you know, if it was
not for one of the most accursed villains who ever trod the face of
the earth, I should be so rich that--that--oh! it is impossible to
say. Mervan," catching at my arm with that boyish impetuosity of his
which ever fascinated me; "you are English, therefore you know all the
English, I suppose. In Jamaica and Hispaniola and all the other
islands we know everybody. Mervan, who is, or where is, James Eaton?"

"James Eaton!" I exclaimed, with a laugh at his innocent supposition
that we were all acquainted with each other in England as they are in
the Indies; yet 'tis true that he could not know that our capital city
alone had so vast and incredible a population as half a million
souls! "James Eaton! Who and what is he? An officer? If so, I might,
perhaps, know, or get to know, something of him."

"An officer? Oh! yes, _por Diôs!_ he is an officer--has been once. But
not such as you or those brave ones we have just parted from. An
officer. _Corpo di Bacco!_ A villain, _vagamundo_, Mervan--a
_filibustier_--what the English call in the islands a damned pirate."

"Humph!" I said. "A friend of yours? Eh, Juan?"

"A friend of mine? Ho! Yes. Mon Dieu! He is a friend. Wait--when we
are in England you shall see how much I love my friend. Oh, yes! You
shall see. When I take him by his beard and thrust this through his
black heart," and he touched the quillon of the sword by his side as
he spoke.

"And is he the villain who has stolen your wealth?" I asked, as we
entered now the door of the inn, I nearly falling backward from the
horrible odours which greeted my nostrils when we did so.

"He is the villain. Oh! 'tis a story. Such a story. You shall hear.
But not now--not now. Now we will eat and drink and be gay."

"But," I said, my curiosity much aroused, "if he has stolen your
wealth how comes it you are rich, as you say? Have you two
fortunes--two sources of wealth?"

"Yes," he replied, with his bright, sweet smile. "Two fortunes--the
one he stole, the other--but no matter for fortunes now. I have enough
and plenty for myself--and, Mervan, for you if you want it. Plenty."

"I, too, have enough for present wants," I said. "Quite enough."

"_Bueno_. _Bueno_," he said. "Then all is well. And now to
eat, drink and be gay until to-morrow. Then away, away, away to
Flanders--anywhere, so long as we are together. Joy to-day, work and
travel to-morrow. But, Mervan," and once more he placed his hand
supplicatingly on my arm. "Forgive. Forgive me. I--I have brought the
viol d'amore."



CHAPTER XIV.

"IT IS WAR TIME! IF IT MUST BE, IT MUST."


We were English gentlemen furnished with passports to enable us to
travel through Spain--which might not be difficult, since there were
likely to be as many English troops in that country as there were
French, while one-half of the inhabitants wavered in their espousals
of either us and Austria or Louis and Philip.

That, at least, was what we _meant to give_ out if anyone in
Portugal--and in Viana especially--should make it their business to
ask us any questions, which, however, was not very likely to be the
case; for, in this miserable hole--and miserable it was beyond all
thought--there were none who could have any possible right to so ask
us of our affairs, there being no consul of any country whatever in
the place--and, for the rest, we were English. That was enough; we
were English, come ashore from that great fleet whose deeds of the
last few weeks had spread consternation for leagues around and on
either side of Vigo, and whose topmasts were now very plainly visible
a mile or so out from the shore; topsails, too, which would be
conspicuous enough to all in Viana for another day or so, until the
scouts returned with their news; and before this fleet had disappeared
we should be gone, too--on our road to Spain, to France, to Flanders.

That road was already decided on--we were poring over the chart now
upstairs in the sleeping room Juan had secured for me, he having
another one for himself on the opposite side of the corridor--poring
over it by the light of an oil lamp and the flames cast by a bright
cork-wood fire which we had caused to be lit, since 'twas already very
cold, it being now November.

We had resolved, however, that the great high road to France would not
be the very best, perhaps, for our purpose--the road which, passing
through Portugal into Spain at Miranda and Tuy, runs through
Valladolid and Burgos up to Bayonne and France, for these towns were
in the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, and here all were, we learnt, for
Philip and France; but we knew also that with other parts of Spain it
was no so. Away on the eastern shores, Catalonia and Valencia had
declared for Charles of Austria and the allies. Nearer to where we
were, namely, in Galicia, above Portugal, they wavered. Yet 'twas said
now that they inclined toward us, perhaps because Vigo is in Galicia
and, therefore, they had had a taste of how we could be either good
friend or fateful foe. Certainly we had shown we could well be the
latter!

"Yes," I said to Juan, my finger on the chart; "this way will be our
road. Across the frontier where the Minho divides the two countries,
then up its banks to Lugo, and so through the Asturias to Biscay and
Bayonne. That is our way, and, after all, 'tis not much farther than
t'other. And safer, too. If Galicia leans to us, so may the Asturians.
If not, we shall be no worse off than if we traversed Leon, Castile
and Navarre."

"_Vogue la galère!_" cried the boy, who generally varied his
exclamations from Spanish to French and French to English--whichever
came uppermost--"I care nothing. We shall be together, _mio amigo_;
that's enough for me."

"Together for a time," I put in; "for a time. Remember, once we reach
Flanders--if we ever do--which is more than doubtful--my service
claims me. 'Tis war there, hard knocks and buffets for me--for you the
first sloop or vessel of any sort that will run you over to the
English coast."

"Oh, la, la!" said Juan, "'tis not come yet. We have a month, at
least, together, and perhaps even then we will not part. This great
soldier, this fierce captain you speak of, this English lord who
contends with France--perhaps he will let me fight too. Give me--what
is it you call it?--a pair of colours. Then we could fight side by
side, Mervan, could we not?"

I nodded and muttered: "Perhaps," though in truth I thought nothing
was more unlikely. In some way I had come to have none too great an
opinion of the youth's courage or capacity for fighting, remembering
how he had paled, nay, almost shuddered, at the sight of those poor
dead ones floating in Vigo harbour; while for the "pair of
colours"--well, there was plenty of interest being made on all sides
by those of influence in England to obtain such things for their own
kith and kin. There would be mighty little chance for this young
stripling to be received into any regiment. Therefore I went on with
our plans, saying, as I still glanced at the chart:

"That must be the road. And from Lugo across the mountains to Baos,
then to Elcampo, and so to Bilbao up to Bayonne. That is the way."

"To Lugo," he repeated, meditatively. "To Lugo. Humph! To Lugo. That
is the way they went, you know--Chateaurenault and his captains--when
they fled from you."

Now I started when he said this, for I had, indeed, forgotten the
slight rumour I had heard to that effect--forgotten it amidst all the
excitement of the stirring times that had followed the battle and the
taking of the galleons. Yet now the fact was recalled to my mind, I
did not let it alter my determination, and after a moment's
reflection, I said:

"Still it matters not. They will not have gone that way for the same
reason that we shall go it. On their road to France! Chateaurenault
will not stay there, but rather push on to Paris to give an account of
his defeat--make the best excuses he can to his master. Nor will he
come back--an he does, he will find nothing here. His ships are sunk
or being carried to England, and 'tis so with the galleons that are
not themselves at the bottom of the ocean. 'Tis very well. To-morrow
we set out for Lugo, take the first step on our road."

And on the morrow we did set out--amidst, perhaps, as disagreeable
circumstances as could be the case.

For when we rose early the snow was falling in thick flakes; also
'twas driven into our faces by a stiff northeasterly wind which
brought it down from the Cantabrian mountains, and soon our breasts
were covered with a layer of it which we had much ado to prevent from
freezing on them, and could only accomplish by frequent buffets. Yet
we were not cold, neither, since our horses were still able to trot
beneath it--for as yet it lay not upon the roads, and we could thus
keep ourselves warm. Yet, withal, we made some ten leagues that
day--the animals under us proving far better than might with reason
have been expected, judging by their lean and sorry appearance--and
arrived ere nightfall at a small village--yet walled and fortified,
because it lies close on to the Spanish frontier--called Valenza. And
here we rested for the night, finding, however, at first great
difficulty in being permitted to get into it, and, next, an equal
trouble in obtaining lodgings in the one inn of the place.

Also we learnt that it behooved us to be very careful when we set out
next day, or we might find it impossible to enter Spain, which now lay
close at hand, and separated only by the Minho from this place; or,
being in, might find it hard to go forward.

"For," said the host, a filthy, unkempt creature who looked as though
he were more accustomed to attending to cattle in their sheds than to
human beings, but who by great good fortune was able to speak broken
French, "at Tuy, where you must pass into Spain, they are rigourous
now as to papers, letting none enter who are not properly provided.
_Basto!_ 'tis not a week ago that one went forward who was passed
through with difficulty. And a Spaniard, too, though from the Indies."

"From the Indies!" exclaimed Juan, with impetuosity. "From the Indies!
Why, so am I and--and this señor," looking at me, "both from the
Indies. Therefore, we can pass also, I should suppose."

"Oh, for that," answered the man, "I know not. Yet this old man went
through, somehow. He had come up from the south--from Cadiz, as I
think, or Cartagena, or the Sierras--in a great coach and four,
travelled as a prince, had good provisions with him, and ho!--he gave
me to taste of it!--some strong waters that made me feel like a
prince, too, though the good God knows I am none!" and he cast his
eyes round the filthy room into which we had been shown. "Also, he had
his papers all regular; also," and here he gave a glance at us of
unspeakable cunning, "he was generous and open-handed. That spared him
much trouble."

"Perhaps 'twill spare us, too!" again exclaimed Juan. "We can also be
generous and open-handed."

"It will do much. Yet the papers! The papers! Have you the papers?"

Now, we had no papers whatsoever that would stand us in such stead;
therefore, when we were alone together in the room which was to be
ours, and in which there were two miserable, dirty-looking beds, side
by side, covered with sheepskins for coverlets--and perhaps for
blankets, too!--we fell to discussing what must be done; for it was at
once plain and easy to see that at Tuy we should never get through. I
had no papers nor passports whatever, while Juan bore about him only
those which proved that he was a subject of England.

"Yet," said he, "they knew not that on board _La Sacra Familia_, and,
because I could speak Spanish as well as they, deemed me a Spaniard. I
wonder if I could get through that way."

"_You_ might, possibly," I replied. "I am sure I never should. The
Spanish which I know is scarce good enough for that."

"'Tis true," he said, reflectively--"true enough. Yet, you have the
French. See, Mervan, here is an idea. I am a Spaniard and you are a
Frenchman, for the moment. Both countries are sworn friends now as
regards their government, if not their people. Why should not we be
travelling together as natives of those lands?"

"An we were," I answered, "we should not be without passports.
Remember, we come to them from Portugal; therefore, to have gotten
into Portugal as either Spanish man or Frenchman, we should have
wanted papers; and we have none. Consequently, the first question
asked us will be, How got we into Portugal? Then what reply shall we
make? That we came from the English fleet, which has just destroyed
their galleons? That will scarce do, Juan, for our purpose, I think."

Acknowledging such to be the case, Juan sat himself down on the dirty
bed and began to ponder.

"At least we will not be whipped," he muttered, "and at the
outset, too. Mervan, we must find another road somehow, or, better
still--there must be some part of the frontier which runs the northern
length of this miserable land, and which is unguarded. Can we not get
across without any road? Up one side of a mountain and down another,
and so--into Spain!"

"'Tis that I have thought of. Yet there are the horses--also a river
to cross. And, as luck will have it, the mountains hereabouts are none
too high nor dense with woods, nor do they run from east to west, but
rather south and north. Such as there are, you can see from this
window," and I pointed in the swift, on-coming darkness of the
November evening to where they could be seen across the river, their
summits low, and over them a rusty rime-blurred moon rising.

Then I went on:

"Juan, we must tempt the landlord with some of that _largesse_ which
the old man who came in the coach seems to have distributed so
lavishly--only, he has bestowed it on the Spanish side--ours must
begin here. Come, let us go and see what can be done with him."

"But what to do?" the boy said, looking at me with his strange eyes
full of intelligence and perhaps anxiety.

"This: there must be some way of traversing the river when there is no
town on either side--if the worst came to the worst we could swim it
on our horses at night."

"On such a night as this!" exclaimed Juan, shuddering and glancing out
through the uncurtained window at the flakes of snow which still fell.
"It would be death," he whispered, shuddering again.

"You are easily appalled," I said, speaking coldly to him for the
first time since our acquaintance. "Yet, remember, I warned you of
what you might expect in such an expedition as this. You would have
done better to accept the admiral's offer. A cabin in the _Pembroke_
would have been a lady's withdrawing room in contrast to what we may
have to encounter."

"Forgive me. Forgive," he hastened to say pleadingly. "Indeed, indeed,
Mervan, I am bold and no coward--but, remember, I am of the tropic
south, and 'tis the cold of the river that appalls me--not fear for my
life. Like many of our clime, I can sooner face death than
discomfort."

"There will be enough facing of both ere we have done--that is, if we
ever get farther than here," I said, almost contemptuously.

"So be it," he exclaimed, springing to his feet and evidently bitterly
hurt by my tone. Indeed, 'twas very evident he was, since the tears
stood in his eyes. "So be it. We face it! Now," and he rapped the
table between us as though to emphasise his words, "continue your
plans, make your suggestions, bid me swim rivers, cross mountains,
plunge into icy streams or burning houses, and see if I flinch or draw
back again. Only--only," and his voice sank to its usual soft tones,
"do not be angry with me."

That it was impossible to be angry with him long I felt, nor, for some
unexplained reason, could I despise him for his evident objection to
discomfort--the discomfort which would arise from so trifling a
thing--to me, a cuirassier--as swimming one's horse across a river on
a winter night. And, as my contempt, such as it was, vanished at once
at his plea to me not to be angry with him, I exclaimed:

"At worst it shall be made as light for you as may be, since you are
only a boy after all! And if that worst comes," I continued, in a good
natured, bantering way, which caused the tears to disappear and the
smiles to return, which brought back to my mind a song my good old
father used to sing about "Sunshine after Rain"--"if that worst comes,
why, I will swim the river with you on my back, and your jennet shall
swim by my horse's side. Now, for the landlord!"

We found that unclean personage a-sitting over a fair good fire, which
roared cheerfully up a vast open chimney from the stone floor upon
which the logs were, with, by his side, a woman who was blind, as we
saw very quickly when she turned eyes on us which were naught but
white balls with no pupils to them. And, because we at once perceived
that there was no power of sight in those dreadful orbs, I made no
more to do, but, slipping of my finger into my waistcoat pocket,
pulled out two great gold doubloons--worth more than our guineas--and
held them up before him. Then I said in French, and speaking low,
because I knew not whether that stricken one might understand or not:

"See, this will pay our addition and more. Now listen. You may equally
as well have them as the _guarda frontéra_ at Tuy. Will you?"

He nodded, grasping the pieces--I noticed that he kept them from
clinking against each other, perhaps because he wanted not his wife to
know that he had gotten them--then put each into a different pocket,
and said: "She understands not the French. Speak."

"We have no papers. Listen; we are English! We must cross into Spain,
Tell us some other road; put us in the way, and--see--to-morrow
morning, these are for you also."

And I took forth two more of the golden coins.

He looked at us a moment, then said: "You--hate--Spain?" Again I
nodded.

"So all of us here at Valenza," he went on. "A fierce, cruel neighbor,
would trample on us because we are weak. Will seize us yet an England
helps not. Crush them--and France--the world's plague! Listen!"

Then, as we bent our heads, he went on: "From here there is a bye-road
leads to the river bank; it crosses by a wooden bridge into Spain, a
league this side of Melagasso. I will put you in the way in the
morning. Once over that bridge, there is a road cut from the rock that
mounts two hundred paces. There at the summit is the _guarda
frontéra_. Two men are there, an old and a young one. Kill them, and
you are through, leaving no trace behind. Afterward, there is no sign
of life for three leagues."

"Kill them!" I exclaimed. "Must that be done?"

"Ay--or silence them. But--killing is best. And--and--the cliff is
high, the river runs deep beneath. Cast them in, and you are safe."

"They may see us passing the bridge--kill _us_ ere we can mount the
road."

"Do it in the night," the fellow whispered. "In the night, when all is
dark. And 'twill be almost nightfall ere you are there. Do it then."

"There is no other way, no other entrance to Spain?"

"None--without papers."

"Good. It is war time! If it must be, it must."



CHAPTER XV.

"DRAW SWORDS!"


Another night had come--'twas already dark--and Juan and I sat on our
horses in the cork wood, at the end of which we could hear the Minho
swirling along beneath the ramshackle bridge that divided Portugal
from Spain. And, as good fortune would have it, there was on this, the
Portuguese side, no _guarda frontéra_ whatever. Perhaps that poor,
impoverished land thought there was naught to guard from ingress, also
that nothing would be brought from Spain to them. The traffic set all
the other way!

Because there was no need for us to be too soon where we were now;
indeed, because 'twas not well that we should be here ere nightfall,
the landlord had not awakened me until nine in the morning. And then,
on his doing so, I perceived that the other sheepskin-clad bed by my
side had not been occupied at all. Wherefore I started up in some
considerable fright, calling out to him through the door to know where
was my friend, the young señor, whom I had left warming himself at the
great fire below over night, and saying that he would follow me to bed
ere long.

"Oh! he is below," he replied. "Has passed the night in front of the
fire wrapped in his cloak, saying that 'twas there alone he could keep
himself from death by the cold. He bids me tell you all is well for
your journey, the horses fresh; also there is a good meal awaiting
you"; whereon I performed my ablutions, hurried on my garments and
rapidly made my way to the public room below.

"Juan," I said, "you should have warned me of your intention of
remaining below. This is not good campaigning, nor comradeship. Had I
awakened in the night and found you missing, I should have descended
to seek for you, fearing that danger had come to you, and 'tis not
well for travellers to be aroused unnecessarily from their beds on
winter nights. Also we should keep always together. Soldiers--and you
have to be one now!--on dangerous service should not separate."

"Forgive," he said, as, it seemed, he was always saying to me, and
uttering the words in his accustomed soft, pleading voice. "Forgive.
But--oh! Mervan!" pausing a moment as though seeking for some excuse
for having deserted me for the night--"oh! Mervan! that bed was so--so
filthy and untempting. And the room so cold, when without fire. And it
was so warm here. I could not force myself to leave this room."

Remembering what he had said about those who came from the tropics
dreading cold and discomfort even more than death, I thought I
understood how he should have preferred sleeping here to doing so
above. Therefore, I merely said:

"There might be worse beds than that you would not use--may be worse
for us ere long. Still, no matter. You slept warm here as I did
upstairs. Yet 'tis well I did not waken. Now let us see for breakfast
and our departure," and giving a glance at the landlord, who was
bringing in a sort of thick soup in which I saw many dried raisins
floating, also some eggs and coarse black bread, as well as some
chocolate which smelt mighty good and diffused a pleasing aroma
through the room, I tapped my waistcoat pocket to remind him of the
other doubloons that were in it. And he nodded understandingly.

The journey to where we now stood this evening was as uneventful as
though we had been traveling in safety in our own England. The road
into which the man had put us in the morning led first of all through
countless villages--I have since heard that in all Europe there is no
land so thickly sown with villages as this poor one of Portugal--then
trailed off into a dense chestnut-fringed track that was no longer a
road at all.

And now we knew that we were close unto the spot where our first
adventure on the journey, that we hoped might at last bring us to
Flanders, must of necessity take place. We were but half an hour's
ride from the crazy bridge the man had spoken of as connecting his
country with Spain--the bridge on the other side of which was the
rocky path, with, at the top of it, the hut in which we should find
two Spanish _guardas frontéras_ armed to the teeth and prepared to bar
the way to all who could not show their right to pass.

Yet we were resolved to pass--or leave our bodies there.

"There is," the landlord had said, "a holy stone at the spot where the
path leading to the bridge enters the cork wood. You cannot mistake
it. Upon that stone is graven the Figure, beneath it an arrow pointing
the way to Melagasso. Your path lies to the left and thus to the
bridge. God keep you."

We left that stone as he had directed, with one swift glance
upward at those blessed features--I noticing Juan crossed himself
devoutly--slowly over fallen leaves that lay sodden on the earth
beneath their mantle of snow, and over dried branches blown to the
earth, our horses trod. And so for a quarter of an hour we pursued our
way, while still the night came on swifter and swifter until, at last,
we could scarce see each other's forms beneath the thick foliage above
our heads.

Yet we heard now that swirling, rushing river--heard its murmur as it
swept past its banks, and its deep swish as it rolled over what was
doubtless some great boulder stone out in the stream--heard, too, its
hum as it glided by the supports of the bridge that we knew was before
us. Also, we saw above our heads a light gleaming--a light that we
knew must come from the frontiermen's house.

And we had to steal up to where that light twinkled brightly, in what
was now the clear, frosty air, since the snow had ceased--indeed, had
not fallen all day--and all was clear overhead; to steal up, and then,
if might be, make our hasty rush past on our horses' backs, or stay to
cross steel and exchange ball with those who barred our way.

"Forward to the bridge!" I whispered to Juan, fearing that even from
where we were my voice might be borne on the clear night air up to
that height. "Loosen, also, your blade in its sheath! And your
pistols, too--are they well primed?"

"Yes," he whispered back, his voice soft and low as a woman's when she
murmurs acknowledgment of her love. "Yes."

"You do not fear?"

"I fear nothing--we are together," and, as he spoke, I felt the long,
slim, gloved hand touch mine.

A moment later we had left the shadow of the wood; we stood above the
sloping bank of the river rushing by; another moment and our horses'
feet would be upon the wooden bridge--its creaking quite apparent to
our ears as the stream swept under it.

"'Tis God's mercy," I whispered again to him, "that the river is so
brawling; otherwise the horses' hoofs upon these boards would be heard
as plain as a musket's roar. Ha! I had forgotten!"

"Forgotten what, Mervan?" the gentle voice of Juan whispered back.
"Forgotten what?"

"If they should neigh! If there should be any of their kind up there!"
and as I spoke, as the thought came to me, I felt as though I myself
feared.

"Pray God they do not; yet, if they do, it must be borne." And now I
noticed his voice was as firm as though he had experienced a hundred
such risks as this we were running. Then he added: "The Indians muffle
theirs with their serapes when they draw near a foe. Shall we do
that?"

"No," I answered, "'tis too late. Let's on. Yet, remember, at the
slowest pace. Thus their hoofs will fall lighter." And again I
exclaimed: "Thank God, the river drowns their clatter!"

Yet, a moment later, and I had cause for further rejoicing. From above
where that light twinkled there came a sound of singing--a rich, full
voice a-trolling of a song, with another voice joining in.

Or was there more than one voice joining in? If so, we might have more
than the old man and the young one, of whom the landlord had spoken,
to encounter. Almost directly Juan confirmed my dread.

"There are half a dozen there," he said, very calmly. "I know enough
of music to recognise that. What to do now?"

"To go on," I answered. "See, we are across the bridge--there is the
road--in another moment we shall be ascending the path. Praise heaven,
we can ride abreast."

And in that other moment we were riding abreast slowly up that path,
the snow that lay on it deadening now the sound of the horses' hoofs,
while the voices within helped also to silence them.

"I know the song," Juan whispered--and I marvelled at his
calmness--his! the youth's who had been so nervous when there was
naught to fear, yet who now, when danger was close upon him, seemed to
fear nothing--"have sung it myself. 'Tis 'The Cid's Wedding.'"

"'Twill not be songs about weddings that they will be engaged on," I
said, "if any come out of that hut during the next ten minutes; but
rather screeches of death--from us or them. Have your sword ready,
Juan, also your pistols."

"They are ready," he said. "Yet what to do? Suppose any come forth ere
we are past the door, over the frontier. Am I to ride straight through
them--are we to do so?"

"Ay. Sit well down in your saddle, give your nag his head, and--if any
man impedes your way, stand up in your stirrups, cut down straight at
him, or, if yours is not a cutting sword, thrust straight at the
breast of--Ha!"

My exclamation--still under my breath, since my caution did not desert
me--was caused by what now met our eyes, namely, the opening of some
door giving on to the road in front of where the frontier cabin stood;
the gleaming forth into that road of a stream of light, and then the
coming out from the hut and the mingling of some four or five figures
of men in the glare.

Now, when this happened, we had progressed up the hillside road
two-thirds of the way, so that we were not more than seventy paces, if
as much, from where those people were; yet, as I calculated, even at
this nearness to them, we might still, if all went well, escape
discovery. For we were under the shelter of the shelving rock which
reared itself to our left hands, and not out in the middle of the
road, which was here somewhat broad; and, therefore, to the darkness
of the night was added the still deeper darkness of the rock's
obscurity. And, I reflected, 'twas scarce likely any would be coming
our way from this party, which was evidently breaking up, since the
Portuguese and Spaniards did not, I thought, fraternise very much.
'Twas not very probable any would be returning our way. Consequently,
I deemed that we were safe, or almost so; that, soon, some of those in
the road would take themselves off, and would leave behind in the hut
none but the old man and the young man of whom the landlord had
spoken. Nay, more, a glance down the road in the direction of where we
were would, in the darkness of the night, reveal nothing of our
whereabouts. And I conveyed as much to Juan by a pressure of my hand,
yet leaning forward, too, over to his side and whispering:

"All the same, be ready. It may come to a rush. If one of our horses
neighs or shakes itself--so much as paws the earth--if a bridle
jangles--we are discovered."

And a glance from those bright eyes--I protest, I saw them glisten in
the darkness of the starlit night!--told me that he had heard and
understood. Told me, also, that he was ready. After that--after those
whispered words of mine, that responsive glance of his--we sat as
still as statues on our steeds, hardly allowing our breath to issue
from our lungs--watching--watching those figures.

God! would they never separate? Would not some depart and the others
retire into the cabin and shut the door against the cold wintry night?
Offer us the opportunity to make one turn of the wrist on our reins,
give one pressure of our knees to the animals' flanks and dash up the
remains of the ascent and past the hut ere those within could rush out
and send a bullet after us from fusil, gun or musketoon?

At last they gave signs of parting--we heard the _buenas noches_ and
the _adiós_ issuing from those Spanish throats; we saw two of the
men--their forms blurred and magnified in the outstreaming rays of the
lamp--clasp each other's hands; we knew that they were saying farewell
to one another. And then--curse the buffoon!--and then, when they had
even parted and two had turned toward the door to re-enter, and the
others had taken their first steps upon the road forward--then, I say,
one of these latter turned back, made signs to all the others, and,
when he had fixed their attention, began to dance and caper about in
the road, imitating for the benefit of his friends, as I supposed,
some dance or dancer he had lately seen.

From the lips of my doubtless high-strung companion there came a
long-drawn breath; almost I could have sworn I heard the soft murmur
of a smothered Spanish oath; and then once more those whom we watched
parted from each other--the buffoonery was over, the imitation, if it
was such, finished. Again, with laughs and jokes, they broke up and
separated.

"Our chance is at hand, at last!" I whispered.

Was it?

The others--those going away--had disappeared round a bend of both
rock and road; the two left behind were retiring into their house
when, suddenly, the last one stopped, paused a moment, put up his hand
to his head as though endeavouring to recall something, then put out
his other hand, seemed to grasp a lantern from inside the door, and,
slowly, began a moment later to descend the road where we sat our
steeds.

And now we were discovered beyond all doubt; in a moment or so he
would perceive us; another, and he would challenge us; would shout
back to his comrade in the hut--perhaps call loud enough to attract
the attention of his departing friends. We should be shot down, our
horses probably hamstrung, we brought to earth, prisoners or dead.

"Swords out!" I said to Juan, "and advance. Quick, put your horse to
the canter at once; ride past him--over him if need be."

A moment later and we had flashed by the astonished man, the jennet
that bore Juan springing up the hill like a cat, my own bony but
muscular steed alongside; behind us we heard his roars; an instant
after the ping of a bullet whistled by my ears, fired at us by the
other one in the hut as we advanced; another moment and he was
out in the road, endeavouring to swing a wooden gate, that hung
on hinges attached to the cabin, across the road. Also, which was
worst of all, we heard answering calls from the men who had gone on
ahead--tramplings and shouts--we knew that they were coming back to
help.

But we were at the gate now, and still it was not shut, there wanted
yet another yard or so ere its catch would meet the socket post, and,
shifting my reins into my sword hand, I seized its top bar,
endeavouring to bear it back by the combined weight of my horse and
myself upon the man striving to shut it.

Then I heard the fellow at the gate call out something of which I
understood no word, heard Juan give a reply with--who would have
believed it of him at this moment--a mocking laugh; heard the word,
_Inglese_; knew intuitively that he had told them who and what we
were, and had defied them.

And also, as I divined all this, I saw that the other men had
returned, had reached the gate and were lending their assistance to
aid in its being barred against us.

It was war time, as I had said before; I took heart of grace in
remembering this, and I set to work to hew my way, even though I
killed all who opposed me, toward the distant goal I sought. One
brawny Spaniard who, even as he lent his whole weight to the gate,
drew forth a huge pistol, I cut down over those bars, he falling all
a-heap in the road; another I ran through the shoulder; and I saw the
steel of Juan's lighter sword gleam like a streak of lightning betwixt
the upper and the second bar; I heard the third man who had come back
give a yell of pain as it reached him, while a pistol he had just
fired fell to the ground--he falling a moment later on top of it.

And now there was but the original man left at the gate, and still it
was not shut! Wherefore I brought the whole strength and power of my
body to force it back so that there should be room for us to pass.

Yet, even as I did so, I had to desist, for from behind, I heard Juan
shout:

"Mervan, Mervan, help me!" and on looking round I saw that the jennet
was riderless. Saw also, that he was down, that the man who had begun
to descend the hill was wrestling with him on the ground, and that, as
they struggled together, both were rolling over toward the lower part
of the precipice or rock side, which hung perpendicularly above the
swift flowing river.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE FIRST FIGHT.


In a moment I, too, was off my horse--had tied it and the jennet's
reins together--and had flung myself on the man--a big, brawny fellow
who had one arm around Juan's body while, with his disengaged hand, he
felt for a knife in his girdle.

Even as I did so I saw that they were both perilously near the edge of
the rock which hung over the river, that in a few more moments both
must have gone over it--over and down, crashing through bushes and
shrubs until they fell into that rapid stream below, or were hurled on
to the timbers of the crazy bridge, with, probably, their bones broken
all to pieces.

Yet, small as was the space left in which a third man might intervene,
be sure I lost no time in doing so, in flinging myself upon that
muscular Spaniard and in tearing him off his prey. Seizing him by
the collar of his jacket, one hand around his throat, I dragged him
from the boy--for I was as muscular as he, and, maybe, younger,
too--wrenched him to his feet and sent him reeling back into the road.

"Catch the horses," I said to Juan, "quick. And mount yourself. Be
ready. Once I have disposed of this fellow there remains none but the
one at the gate."

And, although the lad tottered as he rose to his feet, he did as I
bade him, and, securing the animals, which had but backed a few paces
down the road, got into his saddle again. Then he said--though
faintly: "I will go forward and dispose of the remaining man."

Yet there was still this one to be disposed of--and I understood at a
glance that I had no easy task before me ere I could do so.

He was a fellow of great bulk--this I could observe in the light of a
watery half moon that now peeped up over the bend of the rock by where
the cabin stood; also he was well armed. In his hand he held now a
long cavalry sword, which he had drawn from its steel scabbard with a
clash even as he staggered back against the rock; with his other hand
he fumbled at the silken sash around his waist, in which was the knife
he had endeavoured to draw against Juan.

In God's mercy, he had no pistol!

He muttered some hoarse words--to me they conveyed little--yet no
words were needed. I knew as well as though he had spoken my own
tongue that one of three things must happen now: That great inch-deep
blade either buried in my heart or my head cleft open with it, or my
straight English weapon through and through him!

Then we set to it.

As animals which are bereft of speech fight, so we fought now--only
more warily. For they fly at each other's throats, in a moment are
locked in each other's grasp, their fangs deep in the other's flesh.
It was not so with us. We had not to come too close, but rather to
guard and feint, to avoid each other till the moment, the one critical
and supreme moment, came. Thus we began.

At first, perhaps, because of the deadly weight of his blade--better
for cut than thrust--he aimed twice at my head, and tried again a third
time, then jumped back with another of his--to me--unintelligible hoarse
and raucous exclamations; for, at that attempt, I had quickly--ay! and
easily, too--parried the blow, had disengaged my weapon, and, with a
rapid thrust, had nearly struck home--had missed the inside of his ribs
by an inch only. Then knew that the next time I should not fail.

"Curse you," I muttered, "if I could speak your _patois_, I'd tell you
that you are doomed." While to myself I said: "He is a clumsy fool,
and--he is mine."

We had turned in these passadoes, as I drove him back; so, too, I had
edged him round. Now, 'twas I who had the rock behind me, 'twas he who
had the declivity of the lower precipice behind him.

And he knew it as well as I--saw in a moment all that this meant,
and--endeavoured to turn again.

Yet he never had the chance. Trust me for that!--as my recollection of
the daily lessons in the fence school at Hounslow, which for a year
Dutch William's best _ferrailleurs_ had taught me ere my father got my
guidon for me.

He never had the chance! Yet he strove hard for it, too; proved that
Spain made no bad choice when she sent him to this frontier post;
strove hard to beat me round again, to bring my back in the position
his was--to the lip of the plateau--and failed.

If I could have spoken to him in his _patois_--for 'twas scarce
Spanish--if I could have made him understand, if he would have
discontinued his contest with me, I would have spared him, and
willingly; would have bidden him let me go in peace, and be saved
himself. For he was a brave man; too good a one for the doom that must
now be his. Yet he forced me to it, forced me to go on, ceased not for
one instant his swinging blows and thrusts, forced me to parry and
thrust in turn for my own salvation--to drive him back step by step to
the brink of the precipice behind him. And, now, it was not five paces
behind him.

His was the danger--I wondered if he knew it--yet mine the horror.
Above the clashing of our swords I heard now the dull, hoarse roaring
of the river below, heard its angry swish as it struck past the
timbers of the bridge below--in my desire to save him I told him madly
in my best Spanish to desist--to save himself. Also, I think, he saw
upon my face some look of horror at the fate that must be his, some
beads of sweat, perhaps, upon it, too--I know I felt them there--saw
them, and--God help him!--misunderstood them. Misunderstood, and
thought my look of horror, my sweat, were for my own safety.

With a leap, a roar, he came at me again like a tiger springing at its
prey, his blows raining upon my sword; almost I thought that even now
he would have borne me to the earth, have conquered. And I thrust
blindly, too, in desperation, knew that my blade was through his arm,
saw him jump back, stagger--and disappear!

And up from below where he had last stood there came a scream of awful
fear and terror, the branches and the bushes crashed, there was a thud
upon the water a hundred feet below--and then nothing more but the
swirl of the river and its hoarse murmur as it swept along.

It had not taken much time in the doing. A moment later I was running
up the road to where the gate stood, swung back now so that the road
was clear. And Juan was sitting on his horse, a pistol in his hand,
and in the road, standing beneath him, his hands by his side, stood
the last remaining man, dreading to move, palsied with fright, and
speechless.

"What shall we do with him?" the youth asked, turning on me a face in
which there was now left no vestige of that brilliant colour it had
once borne. "What? Kill him?" and his eyes flashed ominously, so that
I knew the lust for blood was awakened.

"Nay," I said. "Nay. There is no need for that. Bind him and lock him
up here in his hut. That will do very well. Also, he is old. What of
these others?" and I turned to those who lay in the road.

As I looked at them, it seemed that none were hurt to death--for which
I was thankful enough, since a soldier needs but to disable his enemy,
and seeks not to take life needlessly. The one whom I had first cut
down seemed to have but a scalp wound--doubtless the thick, coarse hat
of felt he wore had turned my blade; he whom I had run through the
shoulder had but a flesh wound, which would trouble him for some weeks
at most; while the fellow whom Juan had pinked had got an ugly gash in
the neck.

"We will put them all in here together," I said, pointing to their
hut, "then leave them. Doubtless they will be relieved in some hours.
Yet the longer ere it happens the better. We must press on and on till
we are well clear of this part of the world. There will be a hue and
cry."

After saying which, I proceeded to drag the wounded men in--one of
them was able to enter the place unaided, though not without many
melancholy groans and ejaculations--and then motioned to the old man
to follow.

But now, obeying me even as I so pointed to the door, he cast an
imploring glance at Juan, and then muttered something to him, the boy
answering him with a laugh. And on my demanding to know what he had
said, my companion replied:

"He saw you take up the lamp. Therefore he asked if you were going to
burn them all when they were locked in the hut."

"Humph!" I said. "It has not quite come to that."

Time was, however, precious now, therefore it was useless for us to
remain here any longer, or to waste any more of it; whereon, again
taking up the lamp, I carried it out into the road. Then I removed the
key from where it hung by the side of the door, and, going out, locked
them all inside.

"Now," I said, "they can remain there till some one comes by to set
them free. Yet, if that some one comes across from Portugal, and our
late landlord speaks truth, they will be in no hurry to do that
friendly office for them." After which I blew out the lamp, and,
walking to the edge of the under precipice, hurled both it and the key
down into the river beneath.

For some time after we had set out upon our journey again we rode in
silence, Juan being as much occupied, I supposed, with his thoughts as
I with mine. And, indeed, my own were none of the pleasantest; above
all I regretted that that brave man with whom I had fought had gone to
his doom. For, although killing was my trade, and although I had
already taken part in several skirmishes and fights, I had none too
great a liking for having been obliged to slay him. Yet I consoled
myself with the reflection that it was his life or mine, and with that
I had to be content. But also there were other things that troubled
me, amongst them being what I feared would prove certain, namely, that
there would be that hue and cry after us of which I had spoken for
some time at least, and until we had left the frontier far behind.
Nor, since Lugo was but a short distance from this place, would it be
possible for us to stop there even for so much as a night's rest. We
must go on and on till we had outstripped all chance of being
recognised as the two men who had forced themselves into a hostile
country in the manner we had done.

But now, breaking in on these reflections, I heard Juan's soft voice
speaking to me, murmuring words of admiration and affection.

"Mervan," he said, "if I liked you before--ay! from the very moment
you stood outside the cabin door of _La Sacra Familia_ and bade me
unlock it, and when the first sound of your voice told me I had naught
to fear--I love you now. My life upon it! you are a brave man, such as
I delight in seeing."

I laughed a little at this compliment, yet soberly, too, for this was
no time for mirth--also, I recognised clearly enough that every step
the animals beneath us took brought us nearer to other dangers, by the
side of which our recent adventure was but child's play--then
answered:

"And what of yourself, Juan? You have done pretty well, too, I'm
thinking; go on like this, and you will be fitted to ride stirrup to
stirrup with the most grim old blades of Marlborough's armies when we
get to Flanders--if we ever do! I thought you nervous, to speak solemn
truth; now I am glad to have you by my side."

"Yet," said the boy, his face radiant with delight, as I saw when he
turned it on me under the rays of the moon, "I was deathly sick with
fear all the time. Oh! my God!" he cried suddenly, "what should I have
done, what become of me, if you had been struck down?" Then added,
anxiously, a moment later. "You are not wounded?"

"Not a scratch. And you?"

"Nor I, either. Yet I was so faint as I guarded that old man by the
gate, that I doubted if I could sit the horse much longer; I should
have fallen to earth, I do verily believe, had you not joined me when
you did."

"Poor lad," I said, "poor lad. You have chosen but a rough road, a
dangerous companion. You should have gone to England in the
_Pembroke_, with the fleet. You would have been half way there by now,
and in safety."

"Never!" he said. "Never!" And, as if to give emphasis to his words,
he turned round in his saddle toward me, placing his left hand on the
cantle as though to obtain a steady glance of my face, and continued.

"I told you we were friends, sworn friends and true. Also, that to be
together was all that I asked. Mervan, our friendship is rivetted,
bound, now; nothing but death or disaster shall part us--nothing; till
at least, this journey is concluded. Then--then--if you choose to turn
me off you may; but not before. You have not yet learnt, do not know
yet, what a Spanish--a--a man reared amongst Spaniards feels when he
swears eternal friendship."

After which he regained his position and rode on, looking straight
between his horse's ears. But once I heard him mutter to himself,
though still not so low, either, but what I heard it very well:

"Friendship. _Diôs!_"

And this warm, fervent youth, this creature full of emotion and
glowing friendship, was him against whom the admiral had expressed
some distaste when he learned that I proposed to ride in his company;
had doubted if that companionship might not be of evil influence over
my fortunes during the journey. If he knew nothing, what did it all
mean? I asked myself. Above all (and this I had pondered on again and
again, though without being able to arrive at any answer to the
riddle), why warn me against one whom he, when brought into contact
with that one himself, had treated with such scrupulous deference?

Even as I thought again upon these things I resolved that as our
acquaintance, our friendship and comradeship ripened, I would ask Juan
who and what he was.

For at present I knew no more than I have written down--that he was
young and handsome, and was well to do. But beneath all, was there
some mystery attached to him? Some mystery which the older and more
far seeing eyes of Sir George had been able to pry into and discover,
while mine were still blinded to it?

We were passing now through a wild and desolate region, a portion of
the western extremity of northern Spain, in which we met no sign of
human life or human habitation, hardly, indeed, any sign of animal
life. Also we had struck a chain of mountains densely clothed with
cork and chestnut woods, the trees of which were bare of leaves, and
through the branches of which the wind moaned cheerlessly. On our left
these mountains, after an interval of barren moorland, rose
precipitously; to our right the Minho rolled sullenly along, the road
we traversed lying between it and the moor. So desolate, indeed, was
all around us now that we might have been two travellers from another
world journeying through this, a forgotten or undiscovered one; no
light either far or near twinkled from hut or cottage, neither bark of
dog nor low of cattle reached our ears; all was desolate, silent and
deserted.

Yet, even as the road lifted so that we knew we were ascending those
mountains step by step, we observed signs which, added to the well
kept state of the road itself, told us it was not an altogether unused
one. For though the snow lay hard and caked upon it, we could observe
where it had taken the impression of cart wheels and of animals'
hoofs, could perceive by this that it was sometimes traversed.

And, presently, we observed something else, something that told us
plainly enough that we were now in the direct way for Lugo, observed
that there branched into the road we were travelling an even broader
one than it--causing, too, our own road to broaden out itself as it
ran further north; a road in the middle of which was a huge stone
column or pedestal, with arms also of stone upon it, pointing
different ways, and with, carved on them, words and figures.

And of these arms one pointed west and bore upon it the words: To
Vigo; another pointed north with, on it, the words: To Lugo.

And seeing all this by the aid of a tinder box and lantern which we
carried amongst our necessaries--seeing it, too, by craning our necks
and standing up in our stirrups--we knew that we had now struck the
route along which those must have come who had fled from Vigo after
the taking of the galleons.



CHAPTER XVII.

MY GOD! WHO IS HE?


All that night we rode, yet slowly, too, for the sake of the horses,
and in the morning--which broke bright, clear and frosty, the sun
sparkling and shining gaily amongst the leafless branches and trees of
the forests through which we passed--reached a little town, or
village, about half way 'twixt the frontier and Lugo, a place called
Chantada, and not far from another town named Orense, which, because
it had a large population--as we gathered from a sight of its roofs
and spires, all a-shining in the morning sun, as we could see very
well from the mountains as we passed along them--we avoided. Also, we
avoided it because it lay not so much upon our direct route, by some
three or four leagues, as Chantada itself.

"Now, come what may," said I to Juan, as we drew near this place, "and
even though we should be pursued from the border--which is not very
like--we must stop here for some hours. We require rest ourselves; as
for the beasts, they must have it; otherwise they will have to be left
behind and others found. And that would be a pity--they are better
than might have been looked for!" As, indeed, they were, especially
considering the haphazard manner in which we had come by them, both
having kept on untiring on the road, while, as for the jennet which
Juan bestrode, it was, possibly because of his light weight, as fresh
as on the hour we set out.

Then, turning to him, I said, even as I noticed that he showed no
signs of fatigue--at which I marvelled somewhat!--and that his
handsome face was as bright and full of colour as it had ever been:

"You must be a-weary, Juan? Three or four hours' sleep will do you a
world of good. And you shall have it, my lad, even though I sit at
your door with a drawn sword in my hand to prevent interruption."

As usual, he smiled that gracious, winsome smile upon me--a smile
which was always forthcoming in response to any simple little kindness
I evidenced to him--and said:

"I could ride on for hours thus--feel no fatigue. Maybe 'tis the
brightness of the morning that heartens me so; perhaps the crisp
coolness of these mountains--Heavens! how different 'tis from aught we
know of in the Indies!--that makes me insensible to it! Yet, Mervan,"
and he gave me a glance from his eyes, under the dark and now
dishevelled curls that hung almost over them, "there is one thing I
long to do now. Mervan, do not refuse. I have earned the right!"

"What is it, child?" I asked, wondering what strange request he might
be about to prefer.

"Let me sing and play a little. 'Twill do no harm, and--and--you
know--the viol is here," and he touched lightly the valise strapped in
front of his saddle.

"Sing, if you will," I said, yet casting a glance around and ahead of
me to see if there were any about whose curiosity might be attracted
by the music--though in sober truth it would not much have mattered
had there been. In such a land as this--though I scarce knew it
then!--for a traveller to pass along on his way singing for
cheerfulness and for solace was no strange thing, but rather, instead,
the custom. "Sing, if you wish--I shall be glad enough to hear a merry
note or so. For audience, however, there will be no other."

"I want none," he replied, "if you are content." And by now, having
got out the little viol d'amore, he struck a few notes upon it and
began to sing.

At first his song was, as I understood and as he told me afterward, a
love-ballad addressed by a youth to his mistress; the words--as he
uttered them--soft and luscious as the trill of the nightingale on
summer night. And his marvellous beauty added also to the effect it
had on me, made me wonder how many dark, tropic beauties in the lands
he came from had already lost their hearts to him. Nay, wondered so
much that, as the last sweet tones of both his voice and viol died
upon the crisp morning air, I asked him a question to that effect.

"Ho! Ho!" he laughed, yet softly as he had just now sung. "None! None!
None! In the Indies I am nothing; all are as dark as I except when
they are golden--fair--and--and--Mervan, _mon ami_, no woman has ever
said a word of love to me."

"Humph!" I said, doubting. "Nor you, perhaps, a word of love to them."

"Nor I a word of love to them. Never, never. _Le grand jamais!_"

"Nor ever loved?" with a tone of doubt so strong in my voice now that
he could not fail to understand it.

"Nor ever loved," he repeated. "Yes--yes--I love now. Now!" Then,
impetuously, as he ever spoke--like a torrent let loose from mountain
side--he went on:

"Love! Love! Love! With heart and soul, and brain on fire. Love! so
that for the creature I adore--have learnt to worship, I would--ah!
what would I not do? Cast my body beneath that creature, plunge
through fire or water--Oh!" he exclaimed, breaking off as suddenly as
he had begun, "Oh! I am a fool! A fool! A fool!"

"But, surely," I said, "surely, with such as you are, that love does
not go unrequited. If you have spoken to the object of this passion,
told of this love you say you bear--and are believed--it must be
returned. Such love as yours would not be simulated, must therefore be
appreciated."

"Simulated!" he exclaimed. "Simulated. It cannot be simulated, not
assumed like a mountebank's robe ere he plays a part. Any one can
paint a flame, any tawdry daubster of an inn signboard, but not even
Murillo himself could paint the heat. And my love is heat--not--not
flame."

"And the lady? The lady?" I asked almost impatiently. "Surely she
does--she must--return this love."

Volatile as he was, and, changing his mood again in a moment, he
looked slyly at me under the dark locks, twanged the viol again and
burst into another song, different from the one he had but recently
finished, the song which I had previously known him to sing:


         "Oh! have you heard of a Spanish lady,
           How she wooed an Englishman?"


"I am an Englishman now, you know, Mervan," interrupting the song.
Then going on:


         "Garments gay and rich as may be,
           Decked with jewels, she had on."


"Did she woo you, then?" I asked, as he paused a moment.

For answer he sang again:


         "As his prisoner fast he kept her,
           In his hands her life did lie;
          Cupid's bands did tie them faster
           By the twinkling of an eye----"


He stopped abruptly and pointed ahead of him with the little viol,
then wrapped it up again in his valise and said:

"See, _amígo_, there is the village--what was its name cut on the
pedestal? Now what are we? Eh? And whence come we if any questions are
asked?"

"You are a young Spanish gentleman," I said, repeating a lesson I had
hitherto in our ride tutored him in, "from Vigo. I am a Frenchman. We
are on our way to Bayonne to join the French forces. Also, we neither
of us know English."

"_Bon, pas un mot_," he replied, catching me up brightly. "_Et nous
parlons Anglais comme une vache parte Espagnol. N'est-ce fas, mon
ami?_"

"_C'est ça. En avant_," I replied, and with a laugh we each touched
our horses with the heel and cantered down into the village of
Chantada.

'Twas a poor place enough for any travellers to see, consisting of a
long, but very wide street, with a fountain in the midst of a wide
open square, around which there lay a number of grunting swine--lean
and repulsive--and also some score or so of geese, all basking in the
morning sun.

Yet next in importance to the church, which was on one side of this
_plaza_, was that which we most sought for, an inn, and, perhaps
because of the road being one of importance 'twixt both Portugal and
Vigo to France, it was a large, substantial-looking house, long, and
with many rooms on either side the great porte, as well as in the two
stories beneath its sloping and serrated Spanish roof; also, it looked
prosperous--a huge gilt coronet hung out over the unpaved street. For
name it had painted along all its front, the words "Taverna Duquesa
Santa Ana."

Under the great archway we rode in, seeing that in a vast courtyard
there stood a travelling coach on which, although there were no horses
attached to it, some baggage was still left piled up beneath some
skins; hearing also the stamping of several horses in their stables.

"Ask," said I to Juan, speaking in French--as agreed between us, there
was to be no more English spoken unless we were certain no ears could
overhear us--"ask if we can be accommodated for some hours, say, until
night. Then we must resume our journey. Ask that."

Obedient to my behest, the youth turned to a man who came out from the
door giving entrance to the inn itself and, in Spanish, made his
demand, whereupon the fellow, after bowing politely, said:

"There is ample accommodation for--for more--alas!--than travel these
roads."

Then, because I addressed a word or so in French to him, he continued
in that language, which, however, he had exceedingly badly:

"Messieurs will stay here till night, then push on to Lugo? _Bon_,
they will be there by morning. So! So! Yes, in verity, they can have a
good meal. There are geese, fowls, meat, also some wine of excellence.
Messieurs may refresh themselves in all ways."

Our horses put in the stable, therefore, we sat down half an hour
later in a vast _sala_--in which a great banquet might have been given
with ease--to a dish of veal, a fowl, and an _olla-podrida_, all of
which would have been good enough had they not been flavoured so much
with garlic that--to my taste, at least--all pleasure was destroyed;
also we had some most excellent chocolate and some good spirituous
liquor to follow--at which latter Juan turned a wry face. Then
ordering another meal to be ready ere we set out--with strict
injunctions that the flavouring should on this occasion be omitted--we
betook ourselves to the rooms above, where we were to get a few hours'
rest.

Yet, as we passed along the whitewashed corridor, the windows of which
gave on to the stable yard, the travelling coach standing there caught
our eyes, and I said to the host:

"You have at least some one else here besides us. Some great
personage, I should suppose, by his equipage," and I directed my
glance to where the great carriage was.

"Ho!" said the man with the true Spanish shrug of the shoulder, which
is even more emphatic than the French one, more suggestive, as it
seems to me; "a personage of wealth, I should say, but no grandee--of
Spain, at least."

"Of what land, then?" I asked. "And why a personage of wealth, yet no
grandee?"

"Oh! well, for that," the man said, with again the inimitable shrug,
"his deportment, his conduct is not that which our nobility permit
themselves. Though I know not--perhaps it may be so--he is a nobleman
of--well--possibly, England. He drinks heavily--name of a dog! but he
drinks like a fiend, _un enragé_--cognac, cognac, cognac--also he
sings all the night, sometimes so that even the fowls and the dogs are
awakened, also all our house. Yet he pays well--very well!"

"Doubtless," I replied, quietly, "an English nobleman. Such is their
custom, according to the ideas of other nations. Well, let us to
rest," whereon Juan and I turned each into a room which the landlord
indicated, and, so far as I was concerned, I slept calmly and
peacefully until awakened by him at three of the afternoon.

Now, when I descended to where our other repast was prepared for us,
which would probably be the last one of a substantial nature which we
should be likely to get ere reaching Lugo, I found Juan there walking
up and down the great _sala_, his sword swishing about against his
left leg as he turned backward and forward petulantly. Also, I could
see that something had ruffled his usually sweet disposition--that
his colour was a little higher than in general, and that the soft
velvet-looking eyes were sparkling angrily.

"Why, what is it?" I asked, even as the landlord brought in the first
cover, "what is it, my boy? You are ruffled."

"Be very sure I am!" he exclaimed, speaking rapidly, and of course in
French, so that the man heard and understood all he said. "I have been
insulted----"

"Insulted!"

"At least rebuffed, and rudely, too; and by, of all men, a filthy
blackamoor--a--a--_por Diôs!_--a slave! Oh! that I had him in the
Indies! He would insult no white one again, I tell you!" and he
fingered the hilt of his weapon and stamped his shapely foot on the
uncarpeted floor till his spurs jangled.

"Come," I said, "you can afford to despise the creature. How did it
happen?"

"Happen! Happen!" Juan replied, still angry. "How?"

"Monsieur saw the black man preparing the luggage on the great coach,"
the landlord said, as he removed the dish-cover from a course of pork
and raisins, "and asked which way his master went. And the fellow was
surly, rude--said that was their business, not the affair of
strangers. Also, they sought no companions, if--if the young señor
meant that----"

"Who never offered our company," Juan broke in again. "Curse him! I
wish I had him in the Indies!" he repeated.

"Come," I said again, "come. This is beneath you, Juan--to be angry
with a slave! As well be vexed with a dog that yaps and snaps at you
when you go to pat it. Sit down and eat your meal. We have a long ride
before us."

Perhaps he saw some sense in my suggestion, for he flung himself into
a chair and began to eat; and meanwhile the host, who was still
hovering about, handing us now a dish of mutton dressed with oysters
and pistachio nuts, and now some stewed pomegranates, chattered away
at one side, telling us that the negro's master was not well--that he
had been drinking again; but yet he was determined to set out at once.

"Though," said he, "but an hour before the caballeros rode in he had
resolved to stay until to-morrow. I know not why he has changed his
mind so swiftly. Oh!--the drink, the drink, the drink!" and he wagged
his head.

That the dissolute man whom the landlord considered to be, in
consequence, an English nobleman, was about to depart there could be
no possibility of doubt. From where we sat at table, and because
curtains to the windows seemed to be things of which those who kept
the inn had never thought, we could see out into the courtyard quite
plainly. Saw first the horses brought out--four of them--and harnessed
to the huge, lumbering vehicle--the nobleman would have proved himself
a kinder-hearted man if he had used six!--saw their cloths taken off
their backs by the postillion, and observed the latter make ready to
mount the near side leader. Also we saw the _facchinos_ on ladders
strapping tight the baggage which had been brought down and hoisted on
top, then heard the landlord, who had now left serving us to attend to
his parting guest, give orders that the noble traveller should be
informed that all was ready for his departure. Upon which we quitted
our seats at the table and walked over to the window, Juan's curiosity
much excited at the chance of seeing this drunken English _milor_, as
he called him. We had not long to wait. For presently we heard a
considerable trampling on the stairs and some mumbled words--to my
surprise the deep, guttural tones seemed familiar!--and then we saw a
wrapped figure carried out between two of the _facchinos_ and lifted
up into the carriage.

And behind that figure walked a negro, his head also enveloped in a
rich red shawl--as though the black creature feared the cold night
air, forsooth!

But, even as they lifted the debauched man into his carriage, the
wrappings about his face became disturbed and fell back on his
shoulders, so that I could see his face--and I started as I did so.
Started even more, too, when, a second later, I heard Juan exclaim in
a subdued voice:

"My God, who is he? Almost I could swear----"

While in my excitement I interrupted him, saying:

"That an English nobleman! That!--Why, 'tis the drunken old ruffian
who came from Rotterdam with me in the ship."

"And his name? His name?" Juan asked, breathlessly. "His name?"

"John Carstairs."

Even as I spoke the postillion cracked his whip, and the great
carriage rolled out of the courtyard, the lamps twinkling and
illuminating our faces as it passed before the window. Showed, too, as
they flashed on Juan's face, that he was once more deathly pale and
all his rich colouring vanished--as I had seen it vanish more than
once before.



CHAPTER XVIII.

BETRAYED.


"His name is Carstairs? Humph!" Juan said to me when the last sound of
the wheels had died away, and we no longer heard the rumbling of the
great Berlin upon the stones of the roughly paved street outside.
"Carstairs!"

"That is the name under which he was entered as a passenger in the
papers of _La Mouche Noire_," I answered. Then continued, looking at
the boy as a thought came to my mind. "Why! have you ever seen him
before, Juan, or have you any reason to suppose it is anything else
than Carstairs?"

For the thought that had come to me, the recollection which had
suddenly sprung to my mind, was the memory of the words Captain Tandy
had used when first we discussed the old man. "'Tis no more his name
than 'tis mine or yours."

Also I recalled that he had said, after meditation, that he was more
like to have been one Cuddiford than anybody else.

And now it seemed as though this stripling who had become my
companion, this boy whose years scarce numbered eighteen, also knew
something of him--disbelieved that his name was Carstairs.

"Do you think," I went on, "that it is something else? Cuddiford,
say?"

"Nay," he replied. "Nay. Not that. Not that. I have heard of
Cuddiford, though. I think he was brought to London and tried.
But--but--oh!" he exclaimed, breaking off, "it cannot be!"

"What cannot be?"

"If," he said, speaking very slowly, very gravely now, "if it were not
eight years since I last set eyes on him, when I was quite a child; if
he had a beard down over his chest instead of being close shaven, I
should say, Mervan, that this was the ruffian I have come to England
to seek; the villain who robbed me of the fortune my father left
me--the scoundrel, James Eaton."

"James Eaton!" I exclaimed. "The man you asked me about; thought I
might be like to know?"

"The same."

"Had he, this Eaton, been a buccaneer? for I make no doubt
that man has." I said. "The captain of _La Mouche Noire_ thought
so--and--and--his ravings and deliriums seemed to point that way."

"I know not," Juan said. "Eaton was a villain--yet--yet--I can scarce
suppose my father would have trusted him with a fortune if he had
known him to be such as that."

"Who was your father, Juan?"

"I--I," he answered, looking at me with those clear starry eyes--eyes
into which none could gaze without marvelling at their beauty--"I do
not know."

"You do not know!--yet you know he bequeathed a fortune to you and
left it in the man Eaton's hands."

"Mervan," he said, speaking quickly, "you must be made acquainted with
my history--I will tell it you. To-night, when we ride forth again;
but not now. See, our horses are ready, they are bringing them from
the stables. When we are on the road I will tell you my story. 'Twill
not take long. Come, let us pay the bill, and away."

"I will pay the bill," I said; "later we can regulate our accounts.
And as you say, we had best be on the road. For if that old man has
seen me, or if his black servant has done so--it--it--may be serious."

"Serious!" he repeated. "Serious! For _you_, my friend?" And as he
spoke there was in his voice so tender an evidence that he thought
nothing of any danger which could threaten him, but only of what might
befall me, that I felt sure, now and henceforth, of the noble,
unselfish heart he possessed. "Oh! not serious for you."

"Ay," I replied. "Ay. Precious serious! Remember, he knows I went
ashore in Lagos bay, that I sailed in the English fleet to Vigo. What
will happen, think you, if he warns them at Lugo that such a one as
I--an Englishman--who assisted at the taking of the galleons, is on
the road 'twixt here and there?"

"My God!" the boy exclaimed, thrusting his hand through the curls
clustering over his eyes--as he always did when in the least excited.
"It might mean----"

"Death," I said, "sharp and swift; without trial or time for shrift;
without----"

"But--whether he be Eaton--or--Carstairs--he is English himself."

"Ay, and so he is." I answered, "But be sure he has papers--also he
can speak Spanish well, will doubtless pass for a Spaniard. Also,
unless I am much mistook, had a cargo in one of those galleons--for
what else has he followed up here? For what--but the hopes of getting
back some of the saved spoil which has been brought to Lugo? That
alone would give him the semblance of being Spanish--would earn him
sympathy. Meanwhile, what should I be deemed? A spy! And I should die
the spy's death."

"What then to do next?" Juan asked, with a helpless, piteous look.

"There is but one thing for _me_ to do," I replied. "One thing alone.
As I told you ere we set out from Viana, my task is to ride on
straight, unerringly, to my goal--on to Flanders, through every
obstacle, every barrier; to crash through them, if heaven permits, as
Hopson crashed through that boom at Vigo--to reach Lord Marlborough or
to fall by the wayside. That is my duty, and I mean to do it."

"Mervan! Mervan!" he almost moaned.

"'Tis that," I went on. "But--think not I say it unkindly, with lack
of friendship or in forgetfulness of our new found _camaraderie_--for
you the need does not exist."

"What!"

"Hear me, I say, Juan. I speak but for your safety. For you there is
no duty calling; the risk does not exist. You are free--a traveller at
your ease."

"Silence!" he cried--his rich, musical voice ringing clear through the
vast _sala_ in the midst of which we now stood once more; and as he
spoke he raised his hand with a gesture of command. "Silence, I say!
By the body of my dead and unknown father, you do not know Juan
Belmonte. What! Set out with you and turn back at the first sign of
danger, and that a danger to you alone! Oh!" he exclaimed, changing
his tone again, emotional as ever. "Oh! Mervan, Mervan."

"I spoke but for your sake," I said, sorry and grieved to see I had
wounded him. "For that alone."

"Then speak no more, never again in such a strain. I said I would
never quit your side till Flanders is reached; no need to repeat those
words. Where you go I go--unless you drive me from your side."

And now it was my turn to exclaim against him, to cry: "Juan! you
think I should do that!" Yet even as I spoke, I could not but add:
"The danger to you as well as me may be terrible."

"No more," he said. "No more. We ride together until the end
comes--for one or both of us. Now, let us call the reckoning and
begone. The horses are there," and he strode to the window and made a
sign to the stable-man to be ready for us. Yet ere the landlord came,
he spoke to me again.

"Remember," he said, "that beyond our _camaraderie_, of which you have
spoken--ay! 'tis that and more, far more--beyond all this, I do
believe the old man whose face I saw as the great lamps shone full
on it is James Eaton. I have come to Europe, to this cold quarter of
the world, to find him. Do you think with him not half a league ahead
that I will be turned from the trail? Never! I follow that man to
Lugo--since his beard is gone I cannot pluck him by that, but I can
take his throat in my hands, thrust this through his evil heart," and
he rapped the quillon of his sword sharply as he spoke. Then added:
"As I will. As I will."

"You do not think he has recognised you, too? Seen you, though unseen
himself, while we have been in this house, passing through these
passages and corridors? as I doubt not either he saw me, or that negro
of his."

He thought a moment after I said this, then suddenly emerged from his
meditation and laughed a bright, ringing laugh, such as I had learnt
to love the hearing of.

"Nay," he replied. "Nay," and still he laughed, "He has not--could not
recognise me. No! No! No! When I present myself to him he--will--he
will be astonished."

And once more he laughed.

What a strange creature it was, I thought. As brave as a young lion;
as emotional and variable as a woman.

In answer to our pealing at the bell, to our calls also, the
landlord came in at last, not hurrying himself at all, as it seemed
to us, to bring the bill. Indeed, we had observed him, as we looked
forth from the window, engaged in a conversation with two of the
townspeople--shrouded in the long cloaks which Spaniards wear--their
heads as close together as if they were concocting a crime, though,
doubtless, talking of nothing more important than the weather.

"The bill," I said, "the bill. Quick. Our horses await us, and we have
far to ride."

"Ay," he replied. "Ay," and flinging down a filthy piece of paper on
the table, added: "There is the bill"; and he stood drumming his
fingers on the table while I felt for the coins with which to pay it.
Yet, even as I did so, I noticed that the fellow's manner was quite
changed from what it had been hitherto. His obsequiousness of the
morning had turned to morose surliness, which he took no trouble to
conceal. And, wondering if Juan, who was standing by, fastening his
spur strap, had observed the same thing, I glanced at him and saw his
eyes fixed on the man.

"There are two pistoles," I said, flinging them on the table. "They
will more than pay our addition; give the rest to the servants."

"Ay!" he replied. "Ay!" but with no added word of thanks.

"Is't not enough?" Juan asked.

"It is enough." Then he turned to me and said: "You are riding to Lugo
to-night?"

"That is our road," I replied, feeling my temper mount at the man's
changed manner. "What of it? Does that route displeasure you, pray?"

"Ho!" he grunted; "for that, it makes no matter to me." Then added:
"The horses are there," in so insolent a tone that I had a difficulty
in restraining myself from kicking or striking him. But I remembered
that, before all else, our safety had to be consulted, and that naught
should be done to cause delay to our progress; wherefore, I swallowed
my ire as best I might.

Yet, as we rode out of the courtyard, I saw at once that Juan's own
thoughts tended exactly in the same direction as mine, since he said
to me:

"That fellow has been told something by the old man--doubtless, that
you are English--that we both are. _Por Diôs!_ Suppose he has informed
him that you were in the English fleet!"

"I have no doubt that the man has been told so," I replied. "But no
matter. If it were not for you I should not care a jot."

Then once more I saw the dark eyes turned on me, and wished that I had
held my tongue--at least as regarded the latter part of my speech.

It seemed as if the town had gone to bed already. The great square was
deserted--except that the geese and pigs were still in it, huddled
together around the fountain, and severally cackled and grunted as we
trotted by them; down the long street, as we rode, we saw no signs of
any one being outside the doors.

Yet, as we neared the extremity of both the town and the street, and
came to where the latter ended off into a country road stretching
along a dreary-looking plain, over which the moon had risen, we saw
that such was not precisely the case. At the end of the street, that
which was the last building was a little, low, whitewashed chapel;
above its black door there was a figure in a little niche, with,
burning in front of it, a candle in a miserable red-glassed lantern;
and, feeble as were the rays cast forth from this poor, yet sacred,
lamp, they were sufficient to show us three men on horseback, all
sitting their steeds as rigidly as statues.

Judging by their long black cloaks and the tips of steel scabbards
which protruded beneath them, and which were plainly enough to be
seen, even in that dim, cloudy light, I imagined these men to be the
town gendarmerie--though doubtless they had some other name to
denominate them--and supposed this was a comfortable position which
they probably selected nightly. Also, the position was at both an exit
and an entrance to the place, therefore a natural one.

"A fine night, gentlemen," one remarked, and next I heard him say
something to Juan, which he replied to; in both of their remarks the
name of Lugo being quite distinct to my ears. But, beyond this,
nothing else passed, and, a few moments later, we were riding at a
smart trot across the dreary, moor-like plain.

"They asked," Juan said, in answer to my question, "if our destination
was Lugo. That was all."

"So I thought I heard," I said. And added: "Until we were past them I
felt not at all sure they might not be on the lookout for us. Might,
perhaps, intend to stop us. If Carstairs, or Eaton, or whatever his
name is, blew upon me to the landlord, he would be as like to do it to
the authorities also. However, we are in the open now, and all is well
so far."

By this time the moon was well up, and we could see the country along
which we were riding; could perceive that 'twas indeed a vast open
plain, with, however, as it seemed to me, a forest or wood ahead of
us, into which the road we were on trended at last. Could see, too,
the snow lying white all around, as far as the moor stretched, and
looking beneath the moonbeams like some dead sea across which no ship
was trying to find its way.

"A mournful spot," I said to Juan, as, half an hour later, we had
almost reached the entrance to the great forest, which we had observed
drawing nearer to us at every stride our beasts took; "'tis well we
made a full meal ere we set out. We are not very like to come across
another ere we reach Lugo."

I spoke as much to hearten up my companion as for any other reason,
since I feared that, in spite of his bravery and firm-fixed
determination to never leave my side, he must be very much alarmed at
the thoughts of what might happen to us ere we had gone many more
leagues.

But, remarking that he made no answer to my idle words, I glanced
round at him and perceived that his head was turned half way back
toward whence we had come, and that upon his face was a look of
intense eagerness--the look of one who listens attentively for some
sound.

"What is it, Juan?" I asked.

"Horses' hoofs on the road behind us," he said, "and coming swiftly,
too. Hark! do you not hear?"

And even as he spoke I did hear them. Heard also something else to
which my soldier's ears had made me very well accustomed: The clank of
steel-scabbarded swords against horses' flanks.

"It is the men we passed by the chapel," I said, "following us now.
Yet, if 'tis us they seek, why not stop us ere we left the town? They
could do as much against us there as here."

"They were but three then," the lad answered, calmly as though he
were counting guineas into his palm instead of the hoof-beats of those
on-coming horses; "now there are more--half a dozen, I should say. If
'tis us they follow, they have waited to be reinforced."

And I felt sure that he had guessed right, since the very thought
which he expressed had already risen in my own mind.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SECOND FIGHT.


We had entered the forest five minutes later, and be very sure, we
wasted no more time in waiting for those behind to come up, since, if
'twas us they followed, we might as well be in its shadow as in the
open. For if we were outnumbered the trees themselves would afford us
some shelter, make a palisade from behind which we might get a shot at
them if 'twas too hot for a hand-to-hand encounter. At any rate, I had
sufficient military knowledge to know that 'tis best to fight against
unequal odds with a base, or retreat, to fall back on, than to be
without one.

Yet as we rode into this forest I loosened my blade in its sheath, and
felt with my thumb to see that the priming of my pistols was ready;
also bade Juan do the same; likewise to keep behind me as much as
might be.

"For," said I, "if they mean attack I will give them no chance of
beginning it. The first hostile word, and I force my horse between
them, cutting right and left, and do you the same, following behind
me. Thereby you may chance to take off those whom I miss."

And I laughed--a little grimly, perhaps--as I spoke, for I thought
that if there were, indeed, six men behind us, my journey toward
Flanders was already as good as come to an end. Yet, all the same, I
laughed, for, strange though it may seem to those who have never known
the delights of crossed steel, a fight against odds had ever an
exhilarating effect upon me; which was, perhaps, as it should be with
a knight of the blade.

Juan, however, did not laugh at all, though he told me he would follow
my orders to the utmost, and, indeed, was so silent that I asked him
if his nerves were firm. To which he replied that I should see when
the moment came.

And now upon the crisp night air we heard the clang of those on-coming
hoofs ringing nearer and nearer; a rough or deadened kind of sound
told us the iron shoes were on the fallen leaves which covered all the
track from where the wood began; the scabbards of the riders flapped
noisily now against spur and horses' flanks; bridles jangled very
near.

Then they were close upon us--five of them!--and a voice called out:

"Halt, there! You are Englishmen--one a sailor and a spy passing
through the land."

"You lie!" rang out Juan's voice, in answer. "We are not Englishmen."

That his reply in fluent Spanish--the Spanish, too, of a gentleman,
and not of a common night patrol--astonished them, I could see. The
leader, he who had spoken, glanced round at his four comrades, and, an
instant after, spoke again:

"Who are you, then, and why does not the big man answer?"

"He speaks French. I am Spanish. Molest us not."

"Molest! _Cuerpo di Baco!_ We are informed you are English. Produce
your papers!"

"We have none. They are lost."

"Ho! ho! ho!" the leader replied. "Very well, very well. 'Tis as I
thought. That man is English; he is denounced this night. As for you,
the accursed English have many possessions wherein our tongue is
spoken. We understand."

And he gave, as I supposed, some order, since all advanced their
animals a few paces nearer, while, as they did so, Juan whispered to
me in the French: "Be ready, but do nothing yet."

"You will return to Chantada with us," the spokesman said, sitting his
horse quietly enough, yet with the blade of his drawn sword glistening
in the moonbeams as it lay across the creature's neck--as, I observed,
did the blades of all the others. "That finishes our affair. For the
rest you will answer to the Regidór."

"We shall not return. Our way lies on."

"So be it. Then we must take you," and, as he spoke, I saw a movement
of his knee--of all their knees--that told me they meant to seize us.

And I knew that the time had come.

"At them!" cried Juan at the same moment. "Advance, Mervan!"

A touch to the curb, and my beast fell back--'twas a good animal,
that! had, I believe, been a charger in its day, so well it seemed to
know its work--then a free rein and another touch of the heel, and I
was amongst them, my sword darting like lightning around. Also, at my
rear, came the jennet's head; near me there flashed the steel of
Juan's lighter weapon; and in a moment we had crashed through
them--they fell away on either side of us like waves from a ship's
forefoot!--fell away for a moment, though closing again in an instant.

"Return and charge!" I cried to Juan, still in French. "At them again!
See, one has got his quietus already!" As, indeed, he had, for the
great fellow was hanging over his horse's neck, in a limp and listless
fashion, which showed that he was done for. But now those four closed
together as we went at them, Juan stirrup to stirrup with me in this
second charge, and our tactics had to be changed. We could no longer
burst through them, so that it was a hand-to-hand fight now; they had
pistols in their holsters, but no chance to use them; they could not
spare a hand to find those holsters--could not risk our swords through
their unguarded breasts; wherefore we set to work, blade to blade.

We should have won, I do believe. Already I had thrust through and
through one man's arm--as luck would have it, 'twas not the sword
arm--already they backed before our rain of blows and cuts and
thrusts, when, by untoward fate, my horse stumbled on the frosty road
and came down; came down upon his haunches, slipping me from the
saddle over the cantle and so to the earth; then regained its hind
legs once more and dashed out from the fray.

And now our position was mighty perilous. Above I saw Juan on the
jennet fencing well with two of the men; over me were the two others
cutting down at my head, though, since by God's mercy I had retained
my weapon, their blows were up to now unavailing. Yet I knew this
could not be for long--nor last--wherefore I cried:

"Save yourself, Juan, save yourself; disengage and flee."

Under my own blade, under those two others that beat upon it so that I
wondered it shivered not in my hand, I saw the boy manfully holding
his own--once, too, I saw him rip up the jerkin of one of his
opponents, and heard the latter give a yell of pain--then, "Great
God!" I thought, "what has happened now?"

For there was a fifth man upon the scene. A man, tall and stalwart,
mounted on a great, big boned, black horse, who had suddenly sprung
from out a chestnut copse by the side of the track; a man in whose
hands there gleamed a sword that a second later was laced and entwined
with those attacking Juan; a man who hurled oaths in Spanish and
French at them--I heard _carambas_ and _por Diôs's_ and other
words--which sounded like the rolling of some great cathedral organ as
they came from his deep throat--_tonneres_, _ventre-bleus_ and
_carrognes_ I heard.

Heavens! who was this man who beat back those others as a giant might
push back a handful of children; whose sword--even as with one hand he
grasped Juan round the waist--went through an adversary's neck so that
he fell groaning upon me, his blood spurting as if from a spigot? Who
was he who laughed loud and long as, with one accord, all those still
alive turned and fled back upon the road they had come? Fled, leaving
us, thanks be to God and this new arrival, the victors of the fray.

He sat his horse calmly now, looking after their retreating figures,
his great sombrero slouched across his face, wiping his blade upon the
coal-black creature's mane; then, as their figures disappeared from
our view, he said in French:

"Warmer work this, Señor Belmonte, than twanging viols and singing
love songs, _n'est-ce pas?_" and from his throat there came again that
laugh.

Glancing up, I saw that which caused me to start, even as I heard Juan
say: "You! You here! And in this garb!"--saw that which made me wonder
if I had gone demented. For this man who had so suddenly come to our
rescue, this _fine lame_ whose thrusts had won the fray for us, was
none other than the monk I had seen on board _La Sacra Familia_, the
holy man known there as Father Jaime.

And swiftly as I gazed up at him there came to my recollection old
Admiral Hopson's suspicions as to having seen him before, also the
imitation pass he had made across the table with the quill at his
brother-admiral, and his words:

"'Twas not always the cowl and gown that adorned his person--rather
instead the belt and pistols--the long, serviceable rapier, handy."

What did it mean?

Ere he answered either Juan's startled enquiries or my stare of
amazement, which he must very well have seen in the moon's rays as I
regarded him, he cantered off after my horse, which was standing
quietly in the forest side by side with that other animal on whose
neck the first wounded man had fallen--he was now lying dead upon the
ground!--and brought both back to where we were, leading them by their
reins.

"You will want your horse, monsieur," he said, "to continue your
journey. _Bon Dieu!_ you both made a good fight of it, though they
would have beaten you had I not come up at the moment."

"Believe us, we both thank you more than words can express," I said,
while Juan sat his jennet, still breathing heavily from his exertions,
yet peering with all the power of those bright eyes at the man before
him, "but your appearance is so different from what it was when last
we met that--that I am lost in amazement. You were, sir, a holy monk
then."

"_Cucullus non facit monachum_," he replied, in what I recognised to
be very good Latin, then added, with a laugh: "In journeying through
dangerous places we are not always what we seem to be. To wit:
Monsieur was either an English soldier or sailor when I saw him
last--an enemy to Spain and France--hating both, as I should suppose.
Yet now he is a private gentleman, and, I imagine, desires nothing
less than that his real position should be known."

"But you--you," Juan interposed, "you were monk from the first moment
I set eyes on you, from the hour when we left Hispaniola. Are you not
one?"

"My boy," he said, and as he spoke he touched Juan on the sleeve as
they both sat their horses side by side--I being also mounted again by
this time--"my boy, I replied to your companion just now with a
proverb. I answer you with another: 'Look not a gift horse in the
mouth.' I have saved your life, at least, if not this gentleman's.
And----"

But Juan stammering forth some words of regret for the curiosity he
had shown, he stopped him with still another touch on the sleeve, and
said:

"Briefly, let me tell this: I had reasons to be in Spain, to quit the
Indies and accompany the galleons, get a passage by some means. It
suited me to come disguised as a monk; there was no other way. For,
rightly or wrongly, both Spain and France are my enemies; in my own
proper character I could never have reached here. Being here, I am
still in danger if discovered; to avoid that discovery I have now
doffed the monkish garb, so that all traces of me are lost. Enough,
however; I am on my road to Lugo. Does your way lie the same road?"

We both answered that it did, whereon he said, speaking quickly and,
as I noticed, in the tone of one who seemed very well used to issuing
orders, as well as accustomed to deciding for himself and others:

"So be it. Let us ride together--and at once. Every moment we tarry
here makes our position more dangerous. Those men will no sooner have
returned to Chantada than every available soldier will be sent forward
to arrest us, even though we be in Lugo itself. You will be recognised
without doubt if you stay an instant in the town. Your one chance is
to get into it and out again as soon as may be.

"And you?" I asked, as now we put spurs to our horses and dashed along
the forest track. "And you? If any of those who were in this affray
return with the soldiers you speak of, it will be hard for you, too,
to escape recognition. Your form cannot be disguised."

"It will be disguised again," he answered very quietly, "when I have
once more resumed the monk's garb. I have it here," and he tapped the
great valise strapped on his horse's back. "It has not been worn since
I got ashore at Vigo, and that's far behind this by many leagues.
There are none here like to recognise me."

"You stay, then, in Lugo?"

"I must stay. I have affairs."

He said this so decidedly that we neither of us ventured to ask him
any more questions, though, a moment or two afterward, he volunteered
to us the statement that, if another horse he had previously bought
when he landed at Vigo had not broken down, he would long ere this
have been in Lugo. Only the finding of a fresh animal--the one he now
bestrode--had taken him some time, and thereby caused him to be late
on his road, which, as we said gratefully enough, was fortunate for
us.

"Ay," he replied, "it was; and also that I was breathing my animal in
the forest at the time those others overtook you. But, _nom d'un
chou!_ I have been a fighter in my day myself, and, since I could not
see two men set upon by five, my old instincts were aroused; though,"
he added, with extreme _sang froid_, "had it been an even fray, I
might have left you to it."

And now it seemed to both Juan and myself as though this man's
assistance to us necessitated us showing some confidence in him;
wherefore, very briefly, we gave him some description of why we were
travelling together, and of how, because Juan had naught else of much
importance to do at the outset of his arrival in Europe, he had
elected to be my companion as far as Flanders.

"Humph!" he exclaimed at this, "he is a young knight errant, as I told
him oft enough in the galleon, when he talked some rhodomontade about
being on his way to Europe to seek out and punish a villain who had
wronged him. Well, sir, even if he finds not the man, he is likely
enough to meet with sufficient adventures in your company ere he
reaches Flanders."

"He thinks he has found him already," I said quietly, in reply.

"What!" and he turned his great eyes on both of us. "Found him. Here
in Spain!" and he laughed incredulously.

"He thinks nothing of the kind," Juan cried hotly, roused more, I
thought, by that scornful laugh than by my doubting words. "He is sure
of it!"

And then he told the whole story of our having seen the old man's
coach in the inn, of the black's insolent reply, of his departure at
night, and of the little doubt there could be that he it was who had
betrayed us to the people of Chantada; also he added:

"But I have him. Have him fast. He is but a league or so ahead of us,
must stop some hours, at least, in Lugo. And then--then, James Eaton,
look to yourself!"

As he uttered those words the black horse which the other bestrode
plunged forward, pricked, as I thought, by some unintentional movement
of the rider's spur, while that rider turned round in his saddle and
gazed at Juan, his face, as it seemed to me, livid beneath the
moonlight.

"Who? What name is that on your lips?"

"The name of a damned villain. The name of James Eaton."

"James Eaton. James Eaton--what is he to you, then? What evil has he
done to you?"

"What evil?" Juan replied, with a bitter laugh. "What evil? and what
is he to me? Only this: He was left guardian to me by my dead father,
and--and--he ill-treated and robbed me. No more than that!"

"You! You! You!" this mysterious man said, his hand raised to his
eyebrows, his dark, piercing eyes gleaming beneath that hand--upon his
face a look I could not fathom. "You!"



CHAPTER XX.

"THE COWL DOES NOT ALWAYS MAKE THE MONK."


We were drawing very near to Lugo now, as the wintry morning gave
signs of breaking; already the great spurs and cañons of the mountains
that flanked the east side of the river Minho began to shape
themselves into something tangible and distinct from the dull clouds
at their summits, and their peaks and crags to stand out clearly.
Also, we noticed that villages were scattered about at the base of
these mountains; observed lights twinkling in the windows of cottages,
and passed a bridge which spanned the river and carried on a road that
led from that east side to the western one; a road with, on it, a
great pedestal of rock, serving, as others which we had passed had
served us, as milestones and finger-posts; a road leading, as we
learnt, from another Viana, different from the one in Portugal at
which Juan and I had landed from the English fleet.

We were drawing very near.

For the last two or three hours we had ridden almost in silence, knee
to knee, all wrapped in our long cloaks, and with nothing breaking in
upon that silence but, sometimes, the hoot of an owl from out the
beeches and tamarisks which fringed the road, and sometimes the scream
of an eagle far up in the mountains, roused, perhaps, from his eyrie
by the clang of our animals' hoofs upon the hard-bound, frosty earth.

Yet some words had been spoken, too, ere we lapsed into this silence;
for, as our friend and deliverer had exclaimed, "You! You!" on hearing
that James Eaton had robbed Juan of whatever might have been left in
his care by the lad's dead father, Juan himself had quickly exclaimed:

"Is he known also to you, then?"

"He was once, long ago--ay, long ago!" Then he paused, as though
unwilling to tell more, though, a moment later, he said:

"And now you think he is ahead of us?--that we shall find him in
Lugo?"

"Without doubt," Juan and I answered, both speaking together, while
the former went on:

"He must halt for some time in Lugo, if only to get a change of
horses."

"'Tis my belief," I struck in, "he will do more than that. Judging
from what I learnt of him in the ship which brought us both from
Holland, Lugo is his destination, the end of his journey."

"Wherefore?" the man who had been "Father Jaime" asked.

"Because," I replied, "he was on his way to Cadiz, where, he thought,
as all did, that the galleons were going in. And he told me in a
frenzy, when he learnt that the English fleet was about in those
waters, that he had a fortune on board two of the galleons. Be sure,
therefore, he would follow them up to Vigo as soon as he could, after
being put ashore at Lagos and learning that much of the treasure had
been set ashore and then forwarded on to Lugo----"

"Would follow them here?" the other said. "Ha! Well, then, we shall
surely meet," and he laughed a little, very quietly, to himself. "Must
meet! And I--I shall have something to say to James Eaton--shall
recall myself to him. He will be pleased to see me!" and again he
laughed--though this time the laughter sounded grimly.

"I also shall have something to say to him," exclaimed Juan. "To----"

"Recall yourself to him also," the other broke in.

"Perhaps," the boy replied, "perhaps. We shall see, though it may not
be just at first."

"At first," said the other, taking him up, "let me present myself. I
assure you 'twill be best. Let me put in my claim to his attention.
Then you can follow suit."

"And I," I exclaimed, speaking now. "I, too, have something to settle
with Mr. James Eaton, if that be his name. I owe it to him that my
journey to Flanders has been interrupted by that scene upon the road,
owe it to him that I ran a very fair chance of never continuing that
journey further than a couple of leagues this side of Chantada.

"I believe, too, that it was he who drew the attention of a French ship
of war to the vessel which was carrying me and my intelligence to
Cadiz, as then supposed."

"How?" asked the ex-monk, "and why?"

"The reason wherefore," I replied, "might be because he suspected my
mission in some way. The manner in which he let the French ship know
of our whereabouts was probably by leaving open the dead light of his
cabin when he lay drinking, while all the others were closed so as to
avoid her. Oh! be sure," I continued, "when you two have done with him
I shall have an account also to make."

"We are three avengers," the other replied, with still that grim laugh
of his. "James Eaton will have other things to think of besides
getting back his treasure at Lugo, if it is there; for, when Señor
Belmonte and myself and you have finished with him--sir," he said,
breaking off and regarding me, "I do not know your name, how to
designate you. What may it be?"

"My name," I replied, "is Mervyn Crespin. May I ask by what we are to
address you? At present, at least, you do not style yourself 'Father
Jaime,' I apprehend."

"Nay," he said. "Nay--not until I don the cowl again. But, see, none
of us, I should suppose, are desirous of travelling through this
hostile country, entering this town of Lugo, which may bristle with
dangers to all of us, under our right names. Therefore--though even
thus 'tis not desirous that these names should be spoken more often
than needs--I will be Señor Jaime. There are Jaimes for second names,
as well as first."

"And," exclaimed Juan, entering at once into the spirit of the matter,
"there are Juans for second names as well as first, also. Therefore I
will be Señor Juan."

"And I," I said, "since I pretend to speak no Spanish, but am supposed
to be a Frenchman, will be Monsieur Crespin. That is a French name, as
well as English. There are scores of Crespins in Maine and Anjou--'tis
from there we came originally. 'Twill do very well."

So, this understanding arrived at, we rode on afterward in that
silence which I have told you of.

But now it was full day, cold, crisp and bright, with the sun topping
the mountains to our left and sending down fair, warm beams athwart
the river, which served to put some life into us, as well as a little
extra heat besides that which the motion of our horses and the glow of
their bodies had hitherto afforded us.

Also, we had left the forest now and entered a great plain which
rolled away to the west of those mountains, and of the river which
brawled and splashed at their base; a plain that in summer was,
doubtless, covered with all the rich vegetation for which the north of
Spain is famed, but that now stretched bare as the palm of a hand, and
recalled to my mind the fair Weald of Kent when winter's icy grip is
on it. Yet 'twas well covered with villages, some close together, some
a league or two leagues apart, and, under where the last spurs of the
Cantabrian mountains swept round directly to the west, we saw rise
before us the high walls of a town, with above them an incredible
amount of towers--we making out between twenty and thirty of these as
each stride of our animals brought us nearer to them.

"That," said Señor Jaime--as he was now to be called--though God only
knew what his right name was!--while our eyes regarded it from still
afar, "must be Lugo. Now let us decide for our plan of action. And,
first, as to getting into it."

"Do you make your entry," I asked, "as a gentleman travelling through
the land, or as priest--monk?"

"As monk!" he replied. "So best! I have other affairs here, besides
the desire of meeting my old friend, Eaton. Now, observe, this is what
I propose: You shall go first together--you will have no difficulty in
getting in, seeing that there is no frontier to cross. Nor will you be
asked for papers, since, once in, you will not get out again unless
you appear satisfactory to those who are there."

"We must get out again after a short rest, after a few hours," I
replied. "I make no manner of doubt that by now we are followed from
Chantada--if those who are behind us reach Lugo ere we have quitted
it, we shall be stopped beyond all doubt."

Señor Jaime paused a moment ere he answered; pondering, doubtless, on
this being the case. Then, speaking slowly, he said:

"If--if--'twere possible that you," looking at me, "and you,"
regarding Juan, "could also enter the town disguised; could appear as
something vastly different from what you are, you would be safe; we
would remain together. And--and--that would please me. We must not
part, having met as we have done," and his eyes rested particularly
upon Juan as he spoke, so that I felt sure he would far less willingly
part with him than with me; that it was of this bright, handsome boy
he was thinking most.

"I," exclaimed Juan, "would, above all other things but one--that one
the not parting company with Mervan, my friend!"--how softly he
murmured those words, "my friend!"--"stay here. For I am resolved to
bring to bar that villain, James Eaton. But how--how to do it? How to
enter the town disguised? We do not travel with masks and vizards, nor
could we assume them an we did. Also, how to change our appearance
sufficiently to be unrecognised by any of those behind?"

"For him," said Señor Jaime, addressing Juan, but looking at me, "'tis
easy enough. I can help him to change himself in a moment. I have
here," and he tapped the great valise strapped on to his horse's back,
"a second monk's gown, of another order than the one I wore--that was
a Carmelite's and, as you know, brown; the second is a Dominican's,
and white. The object which brings me to Europe--later you shall know
it--if it prospers, forced me to provide myself with more than one
disguise."

Then after pausing a moment, perhaps to judge of the effect of this
announcement on us, he went on: "Well, Monsieur Crespin! What do you
say? Will you be a monk and stay with Juan till he has seen his
beloved friend, James Eaton, or will you insist on his abandoning his
interview with that personage and riding post-haste to Flanders? Only
remember, if he and you do so, or if you do this alone, the chance is
also missed of your having a reckoning with that old man also."

Now I was sorely posed by this suggestion of his--sorely. For,
firstly, there was something bitterly distasteful to me, a soldier
and, I hoped, a brave one, in masquerading in any such guise as this
suggested. Also, I knew that it ill became me to tarry on my journey
back for any cause whatever, let alone a new formed friendship for
Juan Belmonte. My place was with the Cuirassiers, and with them I
ought to be--both the earls having hinted that there would be some
hard fighting ere long--while, as for revenging myself on the villain
whose name now seemed for a certainty to be Eaton, well! that might
easily be left to Señor Jaime and Juan. If they did not between them
very effectually confound that hoary-headed scoundrel, I should be
much astonished.

On the other hand, there were many things that made for my disguising
myself ere I entered Lugo, and, rapidly enough as I sat my horse
deliberating, those things ran through my mind. To begin with, it
would be full of Spanish and French soldiers and sailors, the runaways
from Vigo, who, undoubtedly, would have followed the bulk of the
treasure which had been removed from the galleons and transported
here; and it was possible that there might be some who would recognise
me, since I had played a pretty prominent part in the attack. It
might, therefore, be best that--little as this disguising of myself
was to my taste--I should do as Señor Jaime suggested.

Yet, all the same--and in the next moment--I decided that I would not
do this thing; for, besides that it was too repugnant to me, I knew
that it would be useless. And, knowing this, I said so, in spite of
the pleading, pitiful glances which Juan cast at me--glances which
plainly enough implored me to adopt the monk's dress, and thereby be
enabled to stay in Lugo until vengeance was wrought upon James Eaton.

"No," I said, turning to Señor Jaime, who sat quietly on my horse
awaiting my answer, while I studiously avoided Juan's gaze. "No, I
will not do it. I am a soldier, and as a soldier--at least as a man,
and not a monk--I will get through Spain and France. Besides, the
disguise would be useless."

"Wherefore?"

"In reply to that," I said, "let me ask you a question: What do you
intend to do with your horse? Monks do not ride, as a rule--in
Flanders I never saw one on horseback; also, your boots and great
steel spurs beneath the gown would betray you."

Now, he seemed very fairly posed at this, and for a moment bent his
head over his animal's mane, as though lost in thought. Then suddenly
he burst out into one of his deep, sonorous laughs, and exclaimed:

"Body of St. Iago! I never thought of that. Though, for the boots, it
matters not; I have the monkish sandals with me. And--and--perhaps the
horse can be smuggled into the town somehow, and with it the boots!
Ha! I must think!"

And again he became buried in thought; yet, a moment later, he spoke
once more:

"If you enter Lugo as you are," he said, "you will be taken for a
certainty. There are--there must be--many coming after us from behind,
from Chantada--they will describe you. Remember, you were not only
seen under the moon's rays during the fight in the wood, but in the
town previously. And, if you are taken, there is no hope for you!
Eaton has told that you are English--fought against the galleons at
Vigo. God! it means the garrote for both of you. You understand what
that is? An upright post, a hasp of iron around your neck and it, a
wheel to screw that hasp tight to the post--with your neck between
them!--and--and--your eyeballs out of your head--your tongue half a
foot long. That is what awaits you if you are taken."

"I will never be taken," I said, between my teeth, "to suffer that.
Bah! If I cannot, if we cannot, get out of the town again on the other
side, have I not this, and this?" and I touched my pistol holsters.
"They will be in my belt then."

After saying which I turned to Juan to ask him if he agreed with me,
and saw that Señor Jaime's ghastly description of the garrote had made
him as pale as death.

"What think you, comrade?" I asked. "Is it not best that you and I
forego our vengeance on this man, Eaton, and push on as fast as may
be, leaving him to our friend here, who also seems to have a reckoning
to make--who appears, also, one who can extort it? Or will you
disguise yourself and stay behind?"

"Nay. Nay," he answered. "Where you go, I go. And--God knows I am no
poltroon--yet--yet--I could not suffer that. I have seen it in the
Indies--oh!" and he put his hands to his eyes, letting his reins fall.
"Not that, not that!"

"Will you push on with me, then, foregoing your vengeance?"

"Yes. Yes, since my vengeance risks such death as that. But," turning
to the other, "you proposed a disguise for me. Was I to be a monk,
too?"

"Nay," he said. "Nay. But you are a brave, handsome lad--I thought
that in some way we might have transformed you into a woman. You would
make a presentable one."

"A woman!" he echoed, looking mighty hot and raging at the suggestion.
"A woman!--I, who have fought by Mervan's side! Never. Also," he
added, after somewhat of a pause, "it is not as a woman that I intend
to meet James Eaton, if at all; but as a man demanding swift justice.
A woman would be like to get none of that from him."



CHAPTER XXI.

A NARROW ESCAPE.


That evening--or rather afternoon, when already the wintry night was
at hand--Juan and I were in Lugo and once more making preparations to
continue our journey--to go on west now, through the Asturias,
Santander and Biscay, as our chart showed us, toward St. Sebastian and
Bayonne, which would bring us into France. But also we hoped that,
after we had passed by the former of these provinces, on reaching the
sea, which we should then do, our journey by land might be at an end;
that we might find, by great good fortune, at some seaside town a
vessel, either English or Dutch, which would take us north to where we
desired to go.

But, alas! 'tis useless to write down all the plans we concocted in
the dirty parlour of the inn we had rested in--an inn dignified by the
name of the "Pósada del Gran Grifon," since 'twas not to be our lot to
make that journey, nor to set out upon it.

Let me not, however, anticipate, but write down all that now befell
us; also let me now begin to tell of the strange marvels that I was
destined to behold the unravelling of, as also the dangers which from
this period encompassed me.

We were alone, had entered Lugo alone, Señor Jaime having bidden us
ride ahead of him and leave him to find his way into the town by
himself.

"And," he said, "be very sure I shall do it. Fear not for me. Only, if
I come not by the time four o'clock has struck, believe that either I
have fallen into the hands of the enemy or that, for some reason, I
have not been able to get face to face with Eaton. Therefore, ride on
without me. Remember my disguise will save _me_. You have both refused
to be disguised. By consequence, look to yourselves. We shall meet
again. I know your road."

And now four o'clock had struck from the cathedral hard by, and he had
not come. Yet, why not? we asked each other. A peasant whom we had met
on the road when but a league between us and Lugo had mentioned this
inn as one where good accommodation for man and beast could be
obtained, and ere we parted from Jaime we had determined that it
should be our meeting place.

And still he had not come. And it was four o'clock and past.

"We must go," I said to Juan, "we must go. 'Tis courting frightful
danger to remain here. Already I have observed half a dozen French and
Spanish sailors pass this window, whom I saw on board some of the
ships and galleons; also some officers. If I meet them face to face,
and they remember me, as I do them, there will be----"

"What?" asked Juan, his face full of terror.

"Well--no Mervyn Crespin a few hours hence! that's all."

"Oh, come, come, come," he exclaimed, catching at my arm. "For God's
sake, come! Why, why did we ever enter this town! 'Twas madness. We
should have remembered they had fled hither."

"There is no other high road to France and Flanders," I said, "that
justifies the risk. Yet, Juan, remember, even now it is not too late
for you to part from me, if you choose. Your coming on here means
nothing. _You_ did not fight against the galleons; therefore you are
in no danger----"

"Silence!" he said again, as he had said once before. "Silence! I will
hear no word about leaving you."

Then suddenly he came away from the window, at which he had been
standing, and crossed the room to me.

"Look," he said. "Look from out that window into the street; then say
if it is not too late for us to part--if my danger is not as great as
yours. Look, I say!"

Glancing first at him, in wonderment at his exclamation, and what the
meaning of it might be, yet with some sort of understanding mounting
to my brain also, I stepped across to the dirty, unwashed window and
looked out into the street.

And then I understood.

Through the dim light cast on the now darkened street by oil lamps,
swung across it at intervals, and also by the candles burning in.
_relicários_, set into the walls, as well as by the feeble glare which
emerged from curtainless and unshuttered windows, I saw a band of men
slowly passing, their drawn swords in their hands, or with musketoons
upon their shoulders.

And ahead of all this body, which was composed of perhaps a dozen,
there marched two of those with whom we had fought on the road between
Chantada and this place--the leader who had addressed us, and another.
As they passed along they gazed at each man whom they encountered;
halting opposite our window, they looked at an inn which faced ours
directly, a little place on which was painted the name, "Pósada Buena
Ventura."

"Open the window a crack," I said to Juan--doing so myself, however,
as I spoke--"and let us listen. Hear what they say. Softly," and
following my words we placed our ears to the inch-wide orifice.

And then we heard every word as it fell from their lips.

"That house opposite," the leader said, "is the last to be examined
except this and another"--while Juan whispered: "I cannot catch its
name--It sounds like the San Cristobal. Yes. Yes. 'Tis that. Ha! And,
see, they enter the house opposite. Yet some remain in the street."
And we both peered from behind the side of the window at them as they
stood there in the road, a crowd of urchins gathered round.

"We are trapped," I said, "trapped. We can never get out. The horses
are in the stables behind--also, the gates are shut."

"God!" exclaimed Juan, suddenly, even as I spoke, "they have finished
there already--are coming here. Another five minutes and they will be
in this room."

"What shall we do?" he wailed a moment later.

"Escape while there is time--from this room, at least. Loosen your
sword in its sheath--follow me," and I drew him back from the window.

"But where? Where to go to?"

"Out of the house, at least. Come. The stairs lead down to the back
part of the house; there is the yard and the stables--also a garden. I
observed it when the horses were put up. Come. There is a wall at the
end of the garden which separates it from another. If we can get over
that we can at least escape into the town. By God's grace, there may
be some way out of it besides the gates. And we have the cloak of
night to help us."

All the time I was speaking I had been drawing Juan toward the door;
also I had seen that my papers and money were bestowed about me
safely--I doubted if we should ever see our valises again!--or, for
the matter of that, our horses. It would be heaven's providence now if
we ever got out of this town alive, and even that I deemed unlikely.
And at this crisis that was all we had to hope for, if so much.

"Lift your _porte epée_ by the hand," I whispered. "If the scabbard
clanks on the stairs we are undone. Follow me."

In another instant we were outside the door of the room. For
precaution and as a possible means of gaining time I drew the key from
the inside of the lock, then placed it in the keyhole outside, made a
turn and, again withdrawing it, dropped it into my pocket. This would
take up some moments, while they clamoured without, bidding us open.
It would take some few more to break down the door, which they would
very probably do. They might be precious moments to us.

It was quite dark outside in the corridor, but at the farther end
there glimmered a faint light from an oil lamp set upon a bracket,
though its rays scarcely reached here, namely, to the head of the deep
oak stairs opposite where the door of the room we had just quitted
was. But from below, which was a stone-flagged passage running from
the front of the house to the back, there was another light--thank
God, 'twas nearer the street than the exit to the yard!

We descended seven steps, then the stairs turned sharply from a small
landing--we ourselves did not dare, however, to turn them.

For below, in that cold stone corridor, we heard and recognised the
voice of the man who had challenged us in the forest ere the fight
began, a night ago.

"Here, are they?" we heard him say. "Here--so the birds are caught.
The one, big, stalwart, brown--that is the English _demonio_--the
other, younger, dark, handsome, might play the lover in one of Vega's
spectacles. Ha! And the third who joined in the murder--an elder one,
swart and grimy, black as the devil himself--is he here, too?"

"Nay," said the woman, whose voice told us she was the landlady,
"there are but two, the bronzed one and the youth. You will not hurt
him! Nay! Nay! _Diôs!_ he is young and beautiful."

"Have no fear. _We_ will not hurt either, if they do not resist. If
they do, we shall cut them down. But--otherwise--no! no!" and he
laughed a fierce, hard laugh. "Oh, no. There are others to hurt
them--the governor, the Regidórs, the judges. Ho! They will hurt them
through the garrote--or--or--the flames. The brasero! The wheel! Now
lead up to them. Where is the room they harbour in?"

"I will fetch another lamp," the woman said. "This one is fixed.
Wait." And we heard her clatter down the corridor on her Spanish
pattens. Yet she paused, too, a moment, and turned back, saying:

"Spare him--the young one. Heavens! his lips and eyes are enough to
madden an older woman than I am."

"Quick, then, quick," the other answered. "They sleep in the prison
to-night, and our supper waits at the gatehouse. Quick."

"Shall we dash through them?" Juan whispered; and now I noticed that,
as before in the hour of danger, his voice was firm and steady. "One
might escape even though the other is taken." And I heard him mutter,
in even lower tones: "Pray God it is you."

"No," I said. "No. We go together. Together escape or--die."

Then, even as I spoke, I saw what I had not observed before, owing to
the dim light in which all was surrounded; saw that opposite to us on
the landing--where the stairs turned--there was a door. Closed tight
into its frame, 'twas true, yet leading doubtless into some room
opening off the stairs which led up to the other one we had quitted.

I was near enough to put my foot out quietly and touch it with my toe
and--God be praised!--it yielded, opened inward.

"Into it," I said in Juan's ear, "into it. They will pass it as they
go up to where we have come from. When they have done so we may creep
down. In!"

A moment later we had entered that room, had quitted the stairs--and
the woman had come back and rejoined the men, was leading them up
those very stairs, across the very spot where a few instants before we
had been standing.

Yet our hearts leapt to our mouths--mine did, I know!--when we who
were standing on the other side of the door heard him stop outside it,
and, striking the panel with his finger--the rap of his nail upon it
was clearly perceptible to our eager ears--say to the woman:

"Is this the room--are they here?"

The woman gave a low laugh in answer; then she said:

"Nay. Nay. 'Tis mine. By the saints! what should they do there! That
handsome _Inglés_, devil though he be!--or that lovely boy? Heavens,
no!" and again she laughed, and added: "Come. They are here. Up these
stairs."

Even as we heard their heavy, spurred feet clatter on those stairs we
were seeking for some mode of escape, and that at once.

Alas! 'twas not to be out of the door again and down into the stone
passage, as we had thought.

For one glance through a great crack, and we saw, by peering down
below, that these Spanish alguazils had some method in their
proceedings. They had left two of their number behind; they stood in
the passage waiting for what might happen above; waiting, perhaps, to
hew down the two fugitives whom those others were seeking for, should
they rush down; waiting for us. There was no way there!

Then, for the room--what did that offer?

It was as dark as a vault--we could distinguish nothing--not even
where the bed was--at first. Yet, later, in a few moments--while we
heard, above, the rapping of sword hilts upon the door of the chamber
we had just quitted--while we heard, too, the leader shouting: "Open.
Open--_Bandidos! Assassinatóres! Espias!_ or we will blow the lock
off"--we saw at the end of the room a dull murky glimmer, a light that
was a light simply in contrast to the denser gloom around--knew there
was a window at that end.

Was that our way out?

Swiftly we went toward it--tore aside a curtain drawn across a
bar--the noise the rings made as they ran seemed enough to alarm those
men above, must have done so but for the infernal din they themselves
were making--opened the lattice window--and, heaven help us!--found
outside an iron, interlaced grate that would have effectually barred
the exit of aught bigger than a cat!

We were trapped! Caught! It seemed as if naught could save us now!

"Lock the door," I whispered to Juan. "They will come here next. The
moment they find we are not in the other room!--ha! they know it now,
or will directly."

For as I spoke there rang the report of a musketoon through the empty
passages of the house. They were blowing the lock off!

Desperately, madly, exerting a force that even I had never yet
realized myself as possessing, I seized the cross-bars of that iron
grating; I pushed them outward, praying to God for one moment--only
one moment--of Samson's strength. And--could do nothing! Nothing, at
first. Yet--as still I strained and pushed, as I drew back my arms to
thrust more strongly even than before--it seemed as if the framework,
as if the whole thing, yielded, as if it were becoming loosened in its
stone or brick setting. Inspired by this, I pushed still more, threw
the whole weight of my big body into one last despairing effort--and
succeeded! The grate was loosened, torn out of the frame; with a
clatter of falling chips and small _débris_ it fell into the yard ten
feet below.

My prayer was heard!

"Quick, Juan," I said, "quick, come. Out of the window, give me your
hands. I will lower you. 'Tis nothing."

From Juan there came in answer a cry, almost a scream of terror.

"Save me! Save me!" he shrieked, "there is another man in the room!"
and as he so cried, I heard a thump upon the floor--a thump such as
one makes who leaps swiftly from a bed--a rush across that floor. Also
a muttered curse in Spanish, a tempest of words, a huge form hurled
against mine, two great muscular hands at my throat.

In a moment, however, my own hands were out, too, my thumbs pressing
through a coarse beard upon a windpipe. "Curse you," I said in
Spanish, as I felt that grasp on me relax. "Curse you, you are
doomed," and drawing back, I struck out with my full force to the
front of me.

Struck out, to feel my clenched fist stopped by a hairy face--the thud
was terrible even to my ears!--to hear a bitter moan and, a moment
later, a fall--dull and like a dead weight!--upon the floor.

"Come, Juan, come," I cried. "Come."



CHAPTER XXII.

WHO? GRAMONT?


As he scrambled through the window--as I let him down by his hands, so
that, with the length of his arm and mine together, his feet were not
more than a yard from the ground--I heard those others outside the
door. Heard also the woman shriek:

"There is none in here, I tell you--pigs, idiots! If they have
escaped, 'tis to the street or to the roof. Search those rooms first.
This is my chamber. _Diôs!_ Are you men to enter thus a woman's
apartment!"

"So be it," the leader said. "We will. But, remember, if we find them
not we will search this room. Remember!" and we heard him and the
others striding off to some other part of the house.

By this time I was myself half out of the window. From the creature I
had felled to the floor there came no sound; but from the door outside
I heard the woman whisper:

"Renato, come forth. Quick, I say! If they find you here you are lost.
You will be taken--sent to the colonies. Come forth!"

Then I waited to hear no more, understanding clearly enough that the
woman had herself been sheltering in her own room some malefactor,
probably some lover. And, doubtless, he had thought we were seeking
for him, had found him in that darkened room--that we were the
alguazils. His presence was explained.

Taking Juan by the hand, I passed rapidly by the stables as we went
away from the street and up into the garden beyond--a small place,
neglected and dirty, in which I had noticed, when we arrived, numbers
of enormous turnips growing--vegetables much used in the country.

Then, a moment later, we were close by a low, whitewashed wall--'twas
not so high as my head--over which I helped Juan, following instantly
myself.

"Heaven knows," I said, "where we are now, except that we have left
the inn behind. This may be the garden of some great _residéncia_, or
of another inn. Well, we must get through somehow into the street
beyond."

"And afterward?" Juan asked, his face close to mine, as though trying
to see me in the dark of the night. "Afterward?"

"God knows what--afterward! We shall never get out of the gates, 'tis
certain. There are five--all are doubtless warned by now. Pity 'tis we
did not follow our friend's suggestion and disguise ourselves. That
way, we might have been safe. I as a monk, you as a woman, we should
never have been recognised."

"'Tis too late," said Juan. "Too late now. We must go on; on to the
end. Yet I wonder where that friend, Jaime, is. Perhaps taken, his
disguise seen through."

We had reached the house to which this garden belonged by now--a
different one from the neglected thing we had lately left, well cared
for, and with great tubs of oleanders and orange trees placed about it
at regular intervals, as we could now see by the rising moon, which
was peeping over the chimney tops and casting its rays along a broad
path which we had followed; were close up to the house, a great white
one, with this, its garden side, full of windows covered with
_persianas_, or jalousies, and from some of them lights streaming.

"'Tis an inn, for sure," I said, "and full of--hark! whose voice is
that?"

Yet there was no need to ask; 'twas a voice not easily forgotten which
was speaking now; the voice of the man, Señor, or "Father," Jaime.

"Ay," we heard in those rich, sonorous tones, "alive, and here to call
you to account."

And following this we heard another voice, supplicating, wailing,
screaming, almost: "No! No! No! Mercy! Pardon!"

Beneath the moon's increasing rays we gazed into each other's eyes,
then quickly, together--as if reading each other's thoughts also--we
moved toward where those sounds proceeded from.

Toward a room in the angle of the great white house, with a door
opening on to the garden in which we stood--'twas open now, though
half across it hung a heavy curtain of some thick material. It was
easy enough to guess how 'twas that curtain was thrown half back and
the door stood open.

That way Jaime had come upon his prey.

Standing behind that door, behind that heavy half-fallen curtain,
this was what we saw: The man Jaime, with in his hand a drawn
sword--doubtless he had hidden it beneath his monk's gown since he
returned to the assumption of the latter.

In front of Jaime, upon his knees, his hands clasped, his white hair
streaming behind him, was the man whose name I had deemed to be
Carstairs, or Cuddiford, but which Juan had averred was in truth James
Eaton.

"Alive!" Jaime went on. "Alive. Villain, answer for your treachery ere
I slay you. Where is my wealth--my child's wealth. Where is my
daughter?"

As he spoke I heard a gasp, a moan beside me, felt a trembling. And,
looking down, I saw Juan staring into the room, his eyes distended as
though he was fascinated.

"My child," Jaime went on. "My child. Where is she?"

"I--I--do not know," the old man muttered--hissed in a whisper. "I
do--not know. She left me--years ago. Yet--I loved her."

"Liar. I have heard of you in the Indies. You stole the wealth I left
in your hands for her--you drove her forth. Answer. Is she dead?"

"I lost all in trade," Eaton moaned again, "all, all. I thought
to double it--you were dead--they said so--would never come back.
I--I----"

"Look," whispered Juan in my ear. "Look behind you."

At his words I turned, and then I knew that we were lost, indeed. Lost
forever.

The men from Chantada, accompanied by those of Lugo, were in this
garden--had followed us over the wall, had found out our way of
escape.

We were doomed! The garrote--the stake--were very near now.

They saw us at once, in an instant--doubtless our forms stood out
clearly enough in the beams of the lamp as they poured forth into the
garden--and made straight for us, their swords drawn, the unbrowned
barrels of their musketoons and pistols gleaming in the moonlight. And
the leader shouted, as he ran slightly ahead of the others: "You
cannot escape again. Move and we fire on you!"

Yet we heeded him not, but with a bound leapt into the room where
those two were--leapt in while I cried: "Jaime, we are undone. Assist
us again."

Then swift as lightning I shut the door to, let fall the curtain and
drew my sword. "I will never yield to them," I said. "Juan and I
escape or die here together."

"Together!" Juan echoed, drawing also his weapon forth.

There was but time to see a still more frightened glance on Eaton's
face than before--if added terror could come into a man's eyes more
than had been when those eyes had glinted up at Jaime as he stood over
him, it came now as Juan sprang to my side, his hat fallen off and his
hair dishevelled--while those men were at the door giving on to the
garden. And in an instant it was burst open by them--'twas but a poor
frail thing!--they were in the room.

"Yield!" the leader cried, "yield, or you die here at once!"

But now Jaime was by our side; three blades were flashing in their
faces; we were driving them back, assisted also by a fourth--the negro
servant of Eaton, who had sprung into the room from another door. Yet
that assistance lasted but a second. Doubtless the unhappy wretch
preferred it, thinking it was his master who was in danger! A pistol
was fired by some one, and I saw him reel back, falling heavily on the
floor, dead, with a bullet between his eyes. And, as he did so, from
Eaton there came a scream, while he flung himself over the creature's
body.

With those others pistols were now the order of the day, fired
ineffectually at first, while still I and the leader fought
hand-to-hand around the room. And I had him safe. I knew if I was not
cut down from behind that he was mine. My blade was under and over his
guard. I prepared for the last lunge, when--curses on the luck!--a
bullet took me in the right forearm; there ran through that arm, up to
my shoulder, a feeling of numbness, a burning twinge; my sword fell
with a clang to the floor.

And in another moment two of them had sprung on and secured me; two
others had grasped Juan, and disarmed him, too.

And now there was none on our side to oppose himself to them but
Jaime.

"Shoot him down! Kill him!" the leader cried. Then added: "You fool,
there is naught against you, yet, if you court fate, receive it."

But, great fighter as he was, what could he do against all those? One
hung upon his sword arm, another clasped a leg, a third was dragging
at his neck from behind, a fourth holding his monkish gown.

In another moment he, too, was disarmed. We were beaten--prisoners!
The lives of all of us were at an end. None could doubt that!

The leader drew a long breath, then turned to where, at the open door
of the passage, were gathered the landlord, as I supposed; several
_facchinos_ and some trembling women servants, white to the lips, and
said:

"Observe, all you. I take these men--these _asasinos_ within your
house. I denounce these two," and he indicated Juan and me, "the one
as an English spy and a man who fought against us at Vigo, this other
one, this boy, as his comrade and accomplice. Bear witness to my
words, also to their deeds of blood."

From that crowd in the passage there came murmurs and revilings in
reply: "You should have slain them here," some said; "Better the
garrote or the flames in the _plaza da Mercado_," said others.

"As for this monk, this false monk--for such I know him now to
be--easy enough to recognise him as one of the brigands we fought with
the other night--had he not joined in this fray he had been safe. We
sought him not. Now, also, the flames or the garrote for him." Then,
breaking off, he exclaimed: "Who is this--and that black slave lying
dead there?" and he pointed to Eaton and the other. "Who are they?"

"A gentleman and his servant staying in this, my house," the landlord
said, speaking for the first time, "doubtless assaulted by the
_vagabundos_. Oh! 'tis terrible."

"Off with these three," the leader said. "To the prison in the
ramparts to-night--the judge to-morrow."

And as he gave his orders his men and the men of Lugo with him formed
round us, prepared to obey.

But, now, for the first time Eaton spoke, approaching the leader
fawningly, speaking in a soft voice.

"Señor," he said, "ere you take them away, a word. This one," looking
at me, "you knew already--at Chantada; I have told you who and what he
is. For the boy it matters not. He is but a follower."

Yet as he spoke I noticed he carefully avoided Juan's eyes, fixed full
blaze on him as they flamed from out of his now white, marble face.

"These, I say, you know," he went on. "But for this other one--this
pretended monk, this brigand of the night--you do not know him; nor
who he is and what has been. Let me tell you."

"Viper," Jaime murmured. "Villain. Thief! Yet," he continued, "I stoop
not to ask your silence. Speak. Tell all. But, James Eaton, beware.
Caged tigers sometimes break their bars and get free."

"Yours will never be broken," the leader said, looking at the same
time with a wondering glance from one to the other.

"'Tis true. 'Tis very true," Eaton went on, his voice oily,
treacherous as before. "Yet since you might break yours, I give this
gentleman a double reason for binding you faster. Sir," turning to him
whom he so addressed, "this monk, this brigand as he appears, would be
an innocent man were he that alone, in comparison with what he really
is."

"Who in the name of all the fiends is he, then? Answer quick."

"A murderer," the old man hissed now, raising his voice, "not
four-fold, but four thousand-fold. See," and he pointed his fingers at
Jaime, "see in him the man who sacked Maracaibo, Guayaquil, Campeachy;
the man who has burnt men and women alive in their houses like pigs in
a stye, sunk countless Spanish and French ships, plundered, murdered,
ravished--the arch-villain of the Caribbean Sea--not dead, but alive,
and trapped at last. The buccaneer, filibuster, pirate--Gramont!"

Amidst their voices--their shouts and cries--for all in Spain had
known that awful name, though its owner had long been deemed dead and
lost at sea--I heard a cry--it was a scream--from Juan; I saw him reel
as he stood by my left side, then stagger heavily against me,
supported from falling to the floor only by my unwounded arm around
him.

He had fainted.

And, as I held up the drooping form, I learnt the secret hidden from
me for so many days. I knew now what it was that Sir George Rooke had
earlier learnt. I penetrated the disguise of Juan Belmonte.



CHAPTER XXIII.

SENTENCED TO DEATH.


I lay within a darkened cell in the prison which formed part of the
ramparts of Lugo. Lay there, a man doomed to death; sentenced to be
burnt at the stake, as a spy taken in a country at war with my own. To
be burnt at the stake on some Sunday morning, because that day was
always a day of festival, because all Lugo would be there to witness,
because from all the country round the peasants would come in to see
the Englishman expire in the flames.

Doomed to death!

Yet not alone. By my side--his right hand nailed to an upright plank!
(so the sentence had run) to which our bodies were to be fastened by
chains--was to stand that other man, Gramont--the pirate and buccaneer
who, as Eaton had testified, had been called the Shark of the Indies.

I had been tried first by the Alcáide of Lugo and the principal
Regidór, assisted by the Bishop of the province, an extremely old
man--and had been soon disposed of. Evidence was forthcoming--there
was plenty of it in Lugo in the shape of French sea-captains and
sailors from the Spanish galleons--that I had fought with the English
at Vigo; also, that I had slain men betwixt the border and here. And,
again, there was the evidence of Eaton that I had travelled from
Rotterdam as the undoubted bearer of the news that the galleons were
approaching Spain.

Also, not content with all this, I was on my way through the land,
gleaning evidence of all that was taking place within it, so as to
furnish, as none could otherwise suppose, information to my countrymen
when I should reach them.

No need for my trial to be spun out; one alone of all these facts was
enough to condemn me, and, after a whispered conference between the
Alcáide, the Regidór and the Bishop, the latter delivered the above
sentence, his voice almost inaudible because of his great age, yet
strong enough for the purpose--powerful enough to reach my ears and
those of the small crowd within the court house; that was sufficient.

So I knew my fate, and knew, too, that it was useless to say aught, to
utter one word. I had lost the game; the stakes would have to be paid
in full.

Then began the unravelling of the history of him who stood beside
me--swarthy, contemptuous--his eyes glancing around that court,
alighting at one moment on the withered form and cadaverous face of
the Bishop, at another on the figure of the Regidór, a moment later on
the Alcáide, a younger, well favoured man, whom I guessed a soldier in
the past or present.

Gramont's condemnation was assured by the part he had played on that
night when he assisted us on the road 'twixt Chantada and Lugo. That
alone would have forfeited his life amidst these Spaniards; yet,
perhaps from curiosity, perhaps because even they doubted whether so
summary an execution, and one so horrible, was merited by that night's
work, they decided to hear the denouncement of Eaton, the story of
Gramont's past life. They bade the former speak, tell all.

And what a story it was he told!

Sitting in a chair near the Bishop, looking nearly as old as that old
man himself, he poured out horror after horror; branded the man by my
side as one too steeped in cruelty to be allowed to live another hour,
if what he said was, indeed, true.

Told how this man had ravaged all the Spanish main--had besieged
Martinique, Nombre de Diós, Campeachy, and scores of other places,
shedding blood like water everywhere--had sunk and plundered ships;
burnt them and the men in them--burnt them alive; gave instances, too,
of cruelty extreme.

"I have known him to tie dead and living together and fling them to
the sharks," he said--"dead and living _Spaniards!_ Also hang them to
the bowsprit by a cord round their waists, a knife placed in one hand,
so that, while freedom was theirs if they chose to sever the rope, a
worse death awaited them when they fell into the water--a death from
sharks, from alligators! Oh, sir, oh, reverend prelate," he continued,
stretching out his hands toward the old, almost blind man, "I have
seen worse than this. Once he and his followers besieged a monastery
full of holy fathers, governed by a bishop saintly as yourself; and
they defended it vigorously, bravely--would have driven this tiger
back but for one thing."

"What?" asked the younger of the judges, the Alcáide. And I noticed
that now, as all through this testifying of Eaton, that Alcáide seemed
less disposed to accept his evidence than the others were. Later on I
knew the reason that so urged him.

"What?" he said.

"Some of the priests had already fallen into his hands and the hands
of his crew. Then they it was whom he forced to advance first against
the monastery--to fire the brass cannon they had brought with them
against their brethren; forced them to do so, so that those brethren
should not know them, should shoot them down first.

"Also," said the Alcáide, "it might have been to prevent their firing
at all. In open war a great commander would, perhaps, have availed
himself of such a cunning ruse."

Then I knew for sure this man had been, or was, a soldier.

More, much more, was told by Eaton--'tis best I set down nothing
further--then the end came, The sentence was passed; he, too, was
doomed to die, by my side, on the Sunday that should later be
appointed.

"Break off," the Bishop said. "Justice will be done." Whereupon he
glanced down at his papers--I wondering that he could see them with
those purblind eyes--while, pausing in his attempt to rise, he "Yet
there was another. The youth"--and here I pricked up my ears, for
of Juan I had heard nothing since taken to the prison in the
ramparts--"the youth who fought by the side of this man--this
spy--this _Inglés_. How comes it he is not before us?"

For a moment, as it seemed to me, the Alcáide hesitated, then he said:

"He is not well. He was hurt in the _mêlée_; he cannot be brought
before us for some days. Later, if necessary, he can be tried."

Although I had drawn as far away from Gramont as I could since I had
learned his true nature and character and the bloodshed of which he
had been guilty, I could not prevent myself from letting my eyes fall
on him now; and I saw that for the first time there was a look of
eagerness in his eyes, that he was watching the younger of those
judges, watching as though filled with an intensity of feeling as to
what might next be said.

"If necessary, Capitan Morales," the Regidór said, speaking now for
almost the first time, "if necessary! By all reports he is as bad as
his elder comrades. A wild cat, all say. Why should it not be
necessary?"

"He is very young," the Alcáide replied, undoubtedly confused, "very
young; also he--he--is not well. I should do wrong to produce him
before you in the state he is. As governor I must use my discretion,"
and he made a feint of being engaged with the papers before him.

Then I felt sure that he, too, knew Juan's secret, as I now did.

And I wondered to what advantage he might put that secret on behalf of
Juan. Wondered while I felt glad at the thought which had now risen to
my mind--the thought that, at last, Juan might be saved from our doom.

Again the Bishop said at this time--doubtless his worn old frame was
fatigued by the morning's work:

"Let us rise. There is no more to be done, since--since--this youth
cannot yet be brought before us," and once more he placed his white,
shrunken hands upon the desk in front of him to obtain the necessary
aid to quitting his seat.

But now the governor, whose name was Morales, made a motion of
dissent, accompanying it, however, by soft, respectful words.

"Nay, most reverend father, nay," he said, "not yet, if you will
graciously permit that we continue our examination farther," while as
he spoke the Bishop sank back again with a wearied look of assent. "I
am not satisfied."

"Not satisfied," the old man whispered, while the Regidór also echoed
his words, though in far louder tones. "What is it you are not
satisfied with, Capitan Morales?"

"With that man's testimony," he exclaimed, pointing his finger over
his desk at Eaton. "In no manner of way satisfied," and as he spoke it
almost seemed--I should have believed it to be so in any other country
but Spain, a land of notorious injustice and love of cruelty for the
sake of cruelty--as if the crowd in the court somewhat agreed with
him. Also, even as he spoke, a voice shouted from the midst of those
forming it:

"Ay! How knows he all this? Ask him that."

Glancing my eyes in the direction whence those words came, they fell
upon a man of rude though picturesque appearance, whose voice I
thought it was; a fellow bearded and bronzed, with, in his ears, great
rings of gold; a man whom, I scarce know why, I instantly deemed a
sailor. Perhaps, one of the many who had fled from the galleons or the
French ships of war.

"I am about to ask him that!" exclaimed Morales, though he cast an
angry glance toward the crowd. "It is his answer to that which I
require."

Then all eyes were instantly directed toward Eaton, one pair flaming
like burning coals from beneath their bushy brows--the eyes of
Gramont.

Looking myself at him, noticing the ashy colour of his face as he
heard that unknown voice uprise amidst the people gathered in the
court--as also he heard in reply the words of Morales--noticing, too,
the quivering of his white lips and the look as of a hunted rat that
came into his eyes--I found myself wondering if he had not thought of
how his denunciation of the man by my side was his own accusation
also.

"I ask you," went on Morales, "how you know all these things. None but
an eye-witness, a participator, could have told as much!"

Upon that muttering and gesticulating crowd, upon the shaggy,
black-bearded Asturians and Biscayans--some of them rude mountaineers
from the Gaviara and some even ruder sailors from the wild and
tempest-beaten shores of Galicia--upon the swarthy Spanish women with
knives in their girdles and babes at their bare breasts, there fell a
hush as all listened for his answer--a hush, broken only by his own
halting attempt to find an answer that should be believed--gain
credence not only with the judges, but the people.

"I have--heard--it said--heard it told," he whispered, in quavering
tones. "'Twas common talk in all the Indies--his name hated--dreaded.
Used as a means to fright the timid--to----"

He paused. For, like a storm that howls across the seas, sweeping all
before it in its course, another voice, a deeper, fuller, more
sonorous one, swept through that court and drowned his; the voice of
the lost man by my side.

"Hear me, you judges," he cried, confronting all--standing there with
his manacled hands in front of him, yet his form erect, his glance
contemptuous, his eyes fire. "Hear me. Let me tell all. I have the
right--the last on earth granted to one such as I--for one who sees
and reads his doom in all your faces. Give me your leave to speak."

"Speak!" the Bishop murmured, his tones almost inaudible. "Speak--yet
hope nothing."

"Hope!" Gramont said. "Hope! What should I hope? Nothing! in truth.
No more than I fear aught. I am the man this one charges me with
being--am Gramont. That is enough. Gramont, the filibuster--one of a
hundred of your countrymen, of Frenchmen, of Englishmen. But," and
he glanced proudly around the court, "the leader of them all, of
almost all. Yet, if I am guilty, who is there in the Indies that is
innocent? Was Morgan, the English bulldog?--yet his king made him
deputy-governor of his fairest isle. Was Basco, Lolonois--is Pointis?
Answer me that. And, you of Spain, you, one of her bishops, you, one
of her soldiers," and he glanced at each of them, "how often has one
of you blessed the ships that sailed from your shores laden with men
of my calling--how often have men of your trade," again he glanced at
Morales, "belonged to mine? Yet now I, a Frenchman, a comrade in arms
of you Spanish, am judged by the words of such as that"--and this time
his eyes fell on Eaton.

Also all in the court looked at him again.

"Now," went on Gramont, "hear who and what he is--hear, too, how he
knows all that I have done. He was my servant--my ship's steward
once--then rose through lust of cruelty to be my mate and second in
command. And he it was who first whispered that the captured monks and
priests, as he terms them, should be sent against the monastery at
Essequibo. Only--he has forgotten, his memory fails--they were not
monks and priests--but _nuns_."

"No, no, no!" shrieked Eaton, as a tumult indescribable arose within
the court, while now the mountaineers and seamen howled, "burn him and
let the other go," and the fierce dark-eyed women clutched their babes
closer to their breasts, fingering the hilts of the knives in their
girdles at the same time.

"Nuns! Holy nuns!" the Bishop gasped. "Great God!"

"Ay! Holy nuns. And hear one more word from me; it is the truth,
though it avails me nothing. I was not at Essequibo then, was far
away, was, in truth, at Cape Blanco. And he--he--James Eaton, was the
man."

There rose more tumult and more uproar--it seemed as though all the
men in the court would force the barrier that separated them from the
judges and from Eaton and us, the prisoners--would slay that villain,
that monstrous wretch, upon the spot. But at a look from the Alcáide
some of the alguazils and men-at-arms by that barrier, thrust and
pushed them back, and made a line between them and the body of the
court.

"Again listen," Gramont went on, when some silence had at last been
obtained. "It is my last word. I was not there--was gone--the band was
broken up, dispersed. From Spain had come an order from your king that
those who desisted were to be pardoned; from Louis of France came the
same news by Pointis. And I was one who so desisted, took service
under Louis, was made his lieutenant. Also I was on my way to France
when I was cast away. Cast away, after leaving my child, my wealth, in
that man's hands for safe keeping. He drove the one from him with
curses and cruelty, he stole the other. And--hear more--those galleons
coming to Cadiz were bringing that stolen wealth to him--because I
knew that it was so I came in them to Spain, hoping by my disguise to
meet him, to wrench it back from him, to call him to account for his
treatment of my girl."

On the court there had come a hush--as the calm comes after the storm;
hardly any spoke now--yet all, from Bishop downward, regarded Eaton,
trembling, shivering there.

And once more in that hush, Gramont's voice uprose again.

"For myself I care not. Do with me what you will. But, remember, I
denounce him, that man there, as pirate and buccaneer ten times more
bloodthirsty and cruel than any other who ever ravaged the Indies; I
denounce him, the denouncer, as thief, filibuster and spy. Do with me
what you will--only take heed. Spare him not. And if you seek
corroboration of my word, demand it of him who is my fellow-prisoner,
demand the truth from Juan Belmonte."



CHAPTER XXIV.

MY LOVE! MY LOVE!


The days passed as I lay in my dungeon in the ramparts, and each
morning when the jailer--who, I soon learned, was deaf and dumb--came
with a loaf of bread and jar of water, I braced myself to receive the
tidings that it was my last on earth.

Yet a week went by and I had not been summoned to the plank and
flames--I began, as I lost count of time--as I forgot the days of the
week themselves--to wonder if, after all, the sentence was one that
they did not dare to carry out. And, remembering that in Spain nothing
could be done without reference to the powers at Madrid, I mused upon
whether, if they did so dare, the sanction for the execution of
Gramont and myself must be first obtained ere the execution could take
place; also I mused on many other things, be sure, besides my own
impending fate, a fate which, I thought, would never be known to any
of my countrymen, which would be enveloped forever in a darkness
nothing could lift. I thought of Juan and of the secret which
that wild, impulsive nature had concealed from me for so many
days--wondered what would be the end of that career; thought, too, of
Gramont, the man whose blood-guiltiness had been so great, yet who, as
he stood by my side a doomed man, had seemed almost a hero by reason
of his indifference to, his scorn of, his fate.

The dungeon, as I have termed it, though in fact it was more like a
cell, was in and at the uppermost part of the ramparts of Lugo--noted
for being the most strongly walled and fortified town in all
Spain--was, indeed, a room in the great wall which sloped down
perpendicularly to the Minho beneath; a wall, smooth and absolutely
upright, or vertical, on which a sparrow could scarcely have found a
crevice in which to lodge or perch, rising from eighty to a hundred
feet from the base of the rock on which it was built and through which
the river rushed. This I had seen as we had passed under it on the
other side of the Minho when we approached the town; could see,
indeed, in the daytime as I glanced down on to the river beneath
through the heavily grated and barred window which admitted light to
my prison; also I could observe the country outside and the mountains
beyond, while I heard at night the swirl of the river as it sped by
those rocks below.

Because there was no chance of escape for any creature immured within
this cell, since none could force away those grates and bars, even had
he possessed that strength of Samson, for which I had once prayed;
because, also, had I been able to do so, there was nothing but the
jagged rocks beneath, or the swift river, into which to cast myself, I
was not chained nor manacled; was at liberty, instead, to move about
as I chose; to peer idly out all day at the freedom of the open
country beyond, which would never again be mine, or to cast myself
upon the pallet on the floor and sleep and dream away the hours that
intervened between now and my day of doom. Nay, I was at liberty, had
I so chosen, to strangle myself with my bedding, or, for the matter of
that, my belt or cravat, or end my life in any manner I might desire.
Perhaps, though I knew not that it was so, it might be hoped such
would be the end. It might save trouble and after consequences.

None came near me all the day or night, except that mute jailer, of
whom I have spoken, when he brought me my bread and water every
morning, and it was, therefore, with a strange feeling of
surprise--with a plucking at my heart, and a fear, which I despised
myself for, that my last hour was come--that one night, as I lay in
the dark, I heard footsteps on the stones of the passage outside the
cell door--footsteps that stopped close by that door, some of them
heavy, the others light. I heard, too, the clash of keys together, the
grating of one in the huge lock, a moment later.

"Remember," I whispered to myself. "Remember, you are a man--a
soldier. Be brave."

Then slowly the door opened, and a figure came in, bearing a light in
its hand, while, a second later, the door was closed and locked again
from the outside; the heavy footsteps were heard by me retreating down
the passage.

The figure was that of "Juan" Belmonte.

"You here?" I said, springing up, and then I advanced toward it, my
hands outstretched, while my companion of so many days sprang to my
arms, lay in them, sobbing as though with a broken heart.

"Do not weep, do not weep," I said, and, as I spoke, my lips touched
that white brow--no whiter now than all the rest of the face, "do not
weep. What is, is, and must be borne."

"My love, my love!" those other lips--whose rich crimson I had once
marvelled at so much--sobbed forth now, "my love, how can I help but
weep? Oh, Mervan, I have learnt to love you so, to worship you, for
your strength and courage! And now to see you thus--thus! My God!"

"Be brave still," I said; would have added "Juan"; only, not knowing,
I paused.

"What shall I call you?" I asked.

"Juana."

"Do they--the judges--know?"

"The Alcáide knows: 'Tis through that knowledge I am here."

"Why," I whispered, my arms about her as she clung to me, "why was
this disguise assumed, these dangers run? Oh! Juana, since I learnt
what you were in truth I have shuddered, sweated at the memories of
your risks. What reason had you for coming to Europe as a man? and
with such beauty, too! 'Tis marvellous it was never seen through."

"They would not give passage to women in the galleons," she answered.
"Therefore I came as I did; also I knew I might better find
Eaton--confront him, in a garb, another sex, which would prevent him
from recognising the little child he had treated so evilly." Then,
suddenly, with a wail, she exclaimed: "Oh, my God! Mervan, I have not
come to talk of this, but to be with you for our last hour; one hour
before we die. The Alcáide has granted me that--and one other
thing--on conditions;" and I felt her shudder in my arms.

"Before we die," I repeated stupidly, saying most of her words over
again. "Granted you this and one other thing--and on conditions. What
conditions? Tell me all; make me to understand. _We_ die? Not you!
They cannot slay you."

From some neighbouring church a deep-toned bell was pealing solemnly
as I spoke. Far down below, by the river banks, I heard the splash of
some fishermen's boats as they went by to their night work--always,
until my eyes close for the last time, I shall remember those sounds
accompanying her words in answer to mine--shall hear them in my
ears--her words: "I can slay myself."

"Juana!"

"Must slay myself," she went on, "there is no other way. Can I live
without you--or, living, fullfil those conditions?" and, even as she
said this, our lips met. "But," I asked, my voice hoarse with grief
and misery, "what are they, and wherefore granted?"

"He gives me one life--his--my father's! My God! he my father!--he
will not give me yours because he thinks you are my lover--and--and
the condition is that on the night when he is set free, I fly from
Lugo with him, Morales, to Portugal. He will be safe there, he says.
'Tis rumoured the king has joined England."

"And you accept the terms?" I asked, bitterly, knowing that I loved
this girl as fondly as she loved me. Had loved her since I discovered
her sex as she reeled into my arms on that night. "You accept?"

"I accept. Nay!" she exclaimed, "do not thrust me from you--you
cannot doubt my love, my adoration. Else why am I here a prisoner in
Lugo--why, except because I could not quit your side, could not tear
myself from you?"

"How then accept?"

"Listen. I must save him. God!--he is my father--to my eternal shame!
Yet--yet, being so, his soul must not go to seek its Maker yet--'tis
too deeply drenched with crime, he must have time--time to live--to
repent--to wash away his sins. Oh! Mervan, you are my love, my love,
my first and only love--will be my last--yet--I must save him."

"At what a cost! Your own perdition!"

"No, no. Listen. Morales leaves here the day before my unhappy father
is given his chance of escape--the door of his cell will be set open
for him at night; none will bar his exit by a back way--I, too, shall
be gone. Morales will take me with him in my own proper garb, that of
a woman. Then--then--because I shall not believe in my father's
freedom until I am sure of it, know it, he will join us at the
frontier--not the one which we passed, but where the road crosses to
Braganza at a place called Carvallos--and----"

"You will keep your word!"

"Yes. To myself--not him. My father will be safe--Morales unable to do
more against him--I--I shall be dead. Once I am assured all is well
with him I shall end my life. There will be nothing more to live for."

"Suppose," I whispered, "suppose--it might be!--that I should escape,
and, doing so, find you dead! Oh, Juana, how would it be with me then?
How could I live?"

"Ah, my love," she said, whispering, too, "can you not believe I have
thought of that--believe that if all hope of your escaping was not
gone I should not have decided thus? But, Mervan, you are a brave man,
have faced death too often to fear to do so once again for the last
time. Mervan, my love, my life--there is no hope. None. He has told
me--he--Morales--that the morning after all are gone but you, you will
surely be put to death. My own, my sweet, there is no hope."

"If I could escape first----"

"It is impossible. Impossible. Oh! I have begged him on my knees again
and again to give you the same chance as he gives my father--have told
him that, since he ruins himself to set free the one, it would cost
him no more to let both go--yet, yet--he will not."

"Why not?"

"I have said. And he makes but a single answer. One is my father--the
other my lover. Laughs, too, and says he does not jeopardise his own
body--ruin for certain his own life in his own land--to fling that
lover back into my arms."

"Still, if he knows that until a few days ago I deemed you a boy----"

"Knows it!" she exclaimed. "Oh, my God! have I not told him so a
hundred times--sworn that we were but strangers thrown together scarce
a month past; had never met before. And to all my vows and
protestations he replies: 'Knowing you now to be a woman--as I have
myself by chance discovered--he must love you as I do. I will not save
him to steal you from me.'"

"Yet, with this refusal on his lips, you yield--or appear to yield."

"My father! My father!" she cried, flinging her arms madly around my
neck. "My father! My father! For his sake I must yield. Oh, my love,
my love, my love--I must."

                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I cannot write down--in absolute truth, cannot recall--our last sad
parting, our frenzied words, our fond embraces. Suffice it that I say
we tore ourselves apart at the sound of the mute's footsteps--that
Juana was borne away almost insensible.

For that we should never meet again in this world we recognised--we
were parted forever. I had found and won--although till lately unknown
to myself!--the most fond and loving heart that had ever yielded
itself up to a man--found it only as I stood upon the brink of my
grave.

Yet if there were anything that could reconcile me to my loss of her
it would be that grave, I knew; that--or the casting of my ashes to
the wind after my body was consumed by the _braséro_--would bring the
oblivion I desired. And, since she, too, meant to die the moment her
father was safe, neither would be left to mourn the other. At least
the oblivion of death would be the happy lot of both. Yet, as now the
hours followed one another, as I heard them strike upon the bells of
all the churches in this old city, and boom forth solemnly from the
cathedral tower--wondering always, yet resignedly, when I should hear
them for the last time; wondering, too, when the key would once more
grate in the lock and I should be summoned to my doom--I cursed myself
for never having penetrated Juan's disguise, for never having guessed
she was a woman. Sir George Rooke had done so, I knew now; that was
what he meant by his solemn warnings to me--fool that I was, not to be
as far-seeing as he!

There were many things, which I now recalled, that should also have
opened my eyes--her timidity, her nervousness, the strange power of
mustering up courage at a moment of imminent danger; also the frequent
change of colour; the remaining in the inn kitchen all one night; the
shriek for assistance at the barrier encounter. And yet I had been
blind, and thought it was a boy who rode by my side through all the
perils we had passed.

I might have saved her had I but had more insight--might have
refused to let her accompany me; have sternly ordered her to
travel in some other way than along the danger-strewn path which I had
come. She would have been safe now--what mattered it what had befallen
me!--would have been free, with no hideous necessity of taking her own
life to escape from the love which Morales forced upon her.

Yet, as I tossed upon my pallet, thinking of all this--thinking, too,
of how fondly I had come to love this girl, so dear to me now that we
were lost to each other forever--I knew, I felt sure, that no stern
commands issued to her to turn back and quit my side would have been
of any avail; that, as she had once threatened, she would have
followed me like a dog, have lain upon the step of the house wherein I
slept, would never have quitted my side.

For hers was the hot, burning love of the southern woman, of which I
had often read and heard told by wanderers into far-off lands--the
love that springs in a moment into those women's breasts, and, once
born, is never quenched except by death--as, alas! hers was now to be
quenched.



CHAPTER XXV.

"AS THE NIGHT PASSETH AWAY."


Still the days passed and I meditated on whether each as it came was
to be my last. Wondered as every morning I watched the opening of the
heavily clamped door, if, instead of my loaf and jar of water, that
deaf and dumb jailer had come to summon me forth to my fate; and
wondered again at what might cause the delay, since morning after
morning his behaviour was ever the same, the bread always placed on
the rough stone shelf that ran around the room, with the water by its
side. That, and nothing more.

That Juana had gone by now with the Alcáide, I thought must surely be
the case. I had taken since that night when last we met--and parted
forever--to scoring with a nail a mark daily on the whitewashed but
filthy wall, so that thereby I might keep some count of the days as
they went by, and now there were six of such marks there. Surely she
was gone--surely, too, I thought, Gramont's escape had taken place by
now--yet they came not for me. What did it mean?

In my agony at the thought that by now, perhaps, Juana was dead by her
own hand--I pictured her to myself using the small poniard I knew she
carried, or the equally small pistol of which she was possessed--I
groaned--nay! almost shrieked sometimes at my horrible picturings of
her beautiful form and face stiff with death; in that agony I came to
pray at last to God that the day or night which was passing over me
might be my last. That He, in His supreme mercy, would see fit to
inspire them with the resolve to make an end of me. Prayed that, by
the time those never ceasing clocks without had struck once more the
hour they were striking as I made my supplication, my soul might have
left my body--that that body might be no more than a heap of ashes.

For I could bear my existence no longer. My thoughts--of my beauteous
mistress lying in death's hideous grasp, of my poor old father, and
the misery which would be his--not at my falling like a soldier, but
at the mystery which would forever enshroud my death--were more than I
could support.

But still another day passed--the seventh--and still again at daybreak
there was no summons to me to go forth and meet my fate. Yet, since by
the increased pealings of the bells, and by the ringing of some
sweeter sounding ones than those usually heard, I knew it was the
Sabbath I wondered that my doom had not come. For the Sabbath was, I
remembered, the day of execution in this land, because 'tis always a
fête day, when the people are at leisure to be excited and amused.

That day passed, however, the night drew on, the dark had come; and
still I was alive; had before me another night of horror and of mortal
agony unspeakable to endure.

From my ghastly, silent warder I had tried more than once to obtain
some hint, or information, as to when I might expect my sentence to be
carried out--if I could have learnt that, I should have known also
that Gramont was gone--was free--that, my God! Juana was dead, or near
to her death. But as well might I have asked the walls of this cell in
which I was, for a word or sign. I wrote on those walls with the nail
a question--_the_ question: "When am I to die?" and he stared as
stolidly at it as though he were no more able to see than to speak or
hear. Thinking, perhaps, that he could not read, I made sighs upon my
fingers to him, at all of which he shook his head, though what he
meant to convey I know not. Yet, had my mind not been so distraught, I
should have remembered that, perhaps, if he could not understand the
one neither could he the other. Reflecting later on, however, I felt
sure that he was able to do both--it was the only way in which one so
afflicted as he was could have been made to understand his orders;
and, still later, I knew that such was the case. And now, on that
Sunday, as the horrid gloom of the winter night enveloped all the
country around, while up from the pastures and fields there rose a
vapour or fog, I took a terrible resolve, driven thereto by the misery
of my reflections.

I determined that, if my death by the hands of the executioner came
not to-morrow, I would take my own life. I could endure no longer,
could think no more upon Juana as a dead woman, as one slain by her
own hand.

"Oh! Juana, Juana," I wailed more than once, "my lost Juana." Then
added, with fierceness, "Yet--no matter. We meet to-morrow at the
latest."

Though they had taken my weapons from me ere they brought me here,
there was enough of opportunity to my hand for accomplishing my
purpose. There was the nail I had found--my sash, or belt--my
cravat--either would serve for my purpose if I was brave enough to
accomplish it.

"Brave enough--brave enough!" I found myself repeating. "Brave enough!
Or," I whispered, "cowardly enough? Which is it? Which?"

And, as still the long hours of the night went on, and I lay on my
pallet staring up into the darkness, listening to the hours told over
and over again by the bells, until my soul sickened at their sound,
watching a glint of the moon's rays on the metal roof of the
cathedral, I answered my own question, reasoned with myself that
self-destruction was the coward's, not the brave man's, act, and
resolved at last to cast that awful resolution behind me, to endure
and meet my fate like a man, as a gallant soldier should.

And so, eased--I scarce knew why--by my determination, I fell at last
into a tranquil sleep, and dreamt that I was back in England, walking
in my father's old flower garden in the Weald, with my love, Juana, by
my side.

Some unaccustomed noise awoke me from that fair dream--something to
which I was not used in the long silence of the nights--some sound
which, as I raised myself on my elbow and peered around the cell, I
could not understand; for in that cell there was no other presence, as
for a moment I had imagined when I sprang up, half asleep and half
awake; the moon, which had now overtopped the cathedral towers, showed
that plain enough. Deep scurrying clouds were passing beneath her face
swiftly--obscuring sometimes her brilliancy for some moments, 'tis
true; yet, as she emerged now and again from them, her flood poured in
and lit up the whole chamber. There was no one in it but myself!

What, therefore, was the sound I had heard? Stealthy footsteps
outside?--those of my doomsmen, perhaps!--or was it some silent
executioner about to steal in on me in the night, thereby to prevent
the publicity of a death in the market place--a death which might by
chance be reported to my own countrymen afar off, and like enough, if
the war rolled down this way, be bitterly avenged? Was that it?

Again beneath the moon there passed heavy clouds, extinguishing her
light so that for a moment my prison was once more steeped in
darkness--I found myself thinking that there would be snow ere
morning; that, if that morning brought my death, 'twould be a
bleak and wintry scene which the flames of the _braséro_ would
illuminate!--then through a break in those clouds a ray stole forth, a
ray that glinted in through the iron bars of the window grate, across
the stone-flagged floor, and onward to the heavily clamped door, then
was arrested there--one spot shining out amidst those beams with the
brightness and the dazzle of a diamond.

What was that thing, that spot on which the ray glinted so?

Creeping toward the door, as silently and lightly as I could go, I
reached it, put out my finger and touched that gleaming spark, and
found that it proceeded from the extremity of a key which was in the
lock and which now protruded by a trifle into the room. It was the
insertion of that key which had awakened me.

Yet--what did it mean, and why, when once in the lock, was it not
turned; why not followed by the entry of one or more persons into the
cell?

Were they coming back later to fall on me? Had the key been first
inserted by some who had withdrawn directly afterward, so that, if the
noise awakened me, I should sleep again shortly, when they could
return to finish their work? This must be the true explanation--I was
to be executed in the depth of the night when all were asleep in the
old town, when no cry of anguish, no scream from one being done to
death, would be heard.

"Yet," I thought to myself, "these precautions are useless. As well
here as in the flames to-morrow. What matters where or how?"

At that moment my ears caught a sound--something was passing down the
stone passage outside--something that was not the heavy tread of the
jailer. Instead, a muffled sound--yet perceptible to me. A shuffling,
scraping sound as though one who was shoeless was dragging each foot
carefully along after the other.

Then I saw the end of the key which projected through the lock turn--I
saw it sparkle in the moon's rays--once it grated harshly, creaked!
And, slowly, a moment afterward the door opened inward, leaving the
passage outside dark and cavernous. He who had so opened it with one
hand carried no light in the other.

Stepping back from it, watching what should happen next--yet, I swear
before heaven, with no fear at my heart--why should there be, since I
desired to die and join my love? yet still with that heart beating
loudly from excitement--I saw the blackness of the doorway blurred
with a deeper intensity by a form standing outside it. I saw the
moonbeams reach that form, lighting it up for a moment and glistening
on the eyes of it. I saw before me the great figure and heavy, stolid
face of my dumb, impenetrable jailer. The mute! Also observed that
under his arm he carried something long--a sword.

His eyes upon me, he advanced into the cell--I seeing that his feet
were bare except for thick, coarse stockings which he wore--yet making
no motion as though to attack me, his action not such as would have
rendered a more desperate man than myself resolved to defend himself.
Then slowly, while I, my back against the farthest wall, stared at him
more in wonder than in awe, he raised the arm under which the sword
was not borne, and motioned to me with his finger, crooked somewhat,
to follow him, pointing a moment afterward down the dark passage.

"So," I whispered to myself, drawing a deep breath as I did so, "the
hour has come. He bids me follow him. I understand--it is to be done
before daylight. Well, I am ready. God give me strength and pardon
me."

Then I made ready to follow him, while he, observing this, prepared to
lead the way.

All was profound and dark outside that cell when once we were in the
passage--so dark that, ere I had barely reached it, I felt his great
hand upon my arm, felt him clutching my sleeves between his fingers.
And thus together we went on, he silent as a corpse, except for his
breathing, which sometimes I heard--sometimes, too, felt upon my
cheek--I going to my death.

One thing I noticed, even in these moments of intensity. We went the
opposite way from that by which I had first been brought--the opposite
way from which his footsteps, when he had been shod, had invariably
sounded; also the opposite way from which my love had come to bid me a
last farewell, and had been carried insensible after our parting.

Whither was I being taken?

The end of the corridor was reached in the darkness; I knew that by
the fact that his grasp tightened perceptibly on my sleeve; also that,
by a pressure of his fingers on it, he was turning me somewhat to the
left; likewise, that grasp put a degree of curb upon me; a moment
later seemed to signify that I was to go on again. And it felt to me
that, in a way, I was being supported--held up.

Another instant, and I knew why. We were descending stairs--on the way
down, doubtless, to some exit that should lead to my place of doom!
Still I resisted not. One path to oblivion served as well as another.

By the manner in which the steps were cut I knew at once that we were
in some tower, and that the stairs were circular; also my hand, which
I kept against the side, told me the same thing. Moreover, there were
_[oe]illets_, or arrow slits, in the wall, through which I could see
the moon shining on another wall, which seemed to be some fifty paces
off--probably, I thought, the opposite wall of some courtyard built
into, or by the side of, the huge ramparts.

Of sound there was none, no noise of any kind, no tramp of sentry to
be heard, although I knew well enough that on the ramparts themselves
soldiers were kept constantly on guard. Nothing; all as still as
death, the death to which I was being led.

At last the stairs ended. My feet told me we were on the level now, a
level into which they sank somewhat as I took step after step, whereby
I judged that we were walking on sand, and wondered in what part of
that prison, of those huge ramparts, we might be. Surely, I thought,
some lowermost vault or dungeon, perhaps beneath the foundations of
the structure, beneath the rocks between which the river flowed.

"My God!" I murmured to myself, "is this my fate? To be immured
forever in some dark dungeon in the bowels of the earth, where neither
light, nor sound--never hope--can come again. Better death at once,
swift and merciful, than this. Far better."

Yet almost it seemed to my now frighted heart that this alone could be
the case.

The air reeked and was clammy, as though with long confinement in this
underground place, and by remaining ever unrefreshed from without by
heaven's pure breezes was mawkish and sickly as the breath of a
charnel house--perhaps 'twas one!--perhaps those who died here were
left to fester and moulder away till their corpses turned to skeletons
and their skeletons to dust; to die here, where no cry for help could
issue forth, no more than any sound except a muffled one could
penetrate, as I knew at this moment, for far above I heard a deep boom
that seemed like the muffled roar of a cannon--a sound that was in
truth the eternal bell of the cathedral telling the hour; also another
broke on my ear--a swift, rushing noise, yet deadened, too--the sound,
I thought, of the Minho passing near.

Then, all at once--as I knew that the sickly, reeking air would choke
me, felt sure that ere many paces more had been traversed I must reel
and fall upon that sanded floor--there blew upon my face a gust of
air--oh! God! it was as though I had changed a monumental vault all
full of rankling dead for some pure forest through which fresh breezes
swept--far down toward where my dimmed eyes gazed I saw a glimmer of
something that looked like the light of a coming dawn.

And I thanked heaven that, at least, these horrid vaults were not to
be my prison or my grave; that, let whatever might befall me, my
punishment was not to be dealt out here.

And ever still as I went on that stricken man walked by my side, held
my arm with his hand, and directed the way toward the sombre light
that gleamed afar.



CHAPTER XXVI.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?


The light increased as we advanced; the space it occupied grew larger;
also it seemed to be entering at what I now judged to be the mouth, or
exit, of some narrow, vaulted passage, through which we were
progressing and arriving at the end of; almost, too, it seemed as if
this passage was itself growing less dark; as if now--as I turned my
eyes to where the mute walked by my side--the outline of his form was
becoming visible.

What was I to find at the end of this outlet--what to see awaiting me
when at last I stood at the opening in the midst of the wintry dawn--a
scaffold, or the _braséro?_ Which? I perceived now--my eyes
accustoming themselves to the dusky gloom--that this vaulted way, or
corridor, was one hewn through a bed of rock, and roughly, too,
blasted, perhaps, in earlier days; and that all along its sides were
great slabs, or masses, of this rock, that lay where they had fallen.
Perceived something else, also--a man crouching down behind one of the
fallen blocks, his cape held across his face by one hand, so that
naught but the eyes were visible; the eyes--and one other thing that
shone and glistened even in the surrounding gloom--a huge gold
earring, of the circumference of a crown-piece, which fell over the
crimson edge, or guarding, of that cloak.

Where had I seen a man wearing such earrings as that before? Where?
Then, even as I went on to my death, I remembered--recalled the man.
'Twas he who had cried out to the Alcáide in the court, bidding him
question Eaton as to how he knew so much of Gramont's past--yet--what
doing here, why hiding behind that fallen mass? Was there some one
within these dungeons whom he sought--some one for whom an attempted
rescue was to be planned? I knew of none--knew of no other prisoner
within these walls--since now Gramont was, must be, as far away as his
unhappy child--my lost love, Juana. Yet, perhaps, it was not very like
I should have known.

But now the end was at hand. I scarce cared to turn my eyes to observe
whether or not the mute had seen the sailor shrinking behind the
stone; instead, nerved myself, by both prayer and fierce
determination, to meet my fate, to make my exit into the open as
bravely as became a man; to let not one of my executioners see that I
feared them or the flames that were to burn the life out of me.

So we drew near the mouth of the passage--moving through the gloom
that was as the gloom of a shuttered and darkened house on some wintry
morn--I seeing that, beyond and outside, was a sloping, stone-flagged
decline that led down to a lane which ran out into the open country
beyond. We were, therefore, outside the walls of Lugo, and I deemed
that it was here, unknown to the townspeople, that I was to meet my
fate.

We stood a moment later on that stone-covered descent, and I gazed
around it startled--amazed! For here, upon it, was no hideous
_braséro_ piled up with logs of wood, and drenched with resin and
pitch to make those logs burn more fiercely; no upright plank nor beam
against which the sufferer's hand--my hand!--was to be nailed through
the palm; no executioners clad in black from head to foot. Instead, a
man in peasant's dress--green breeches, leather _zapátas_ and a
sheepskin jacket. A peasant holding by the reins two horses, one
black, the other dappled grey.

I felt almost as though once more I should faint--felt as I had done
in that reeking, mouldy corridor through which I had come--became
sick, indeed, at the relief, even though 'twere for an hour or so
only, which was accorded me from instant death, since I knew that here
that death could not be dealt out.

Then I turned to the deaf and dumb man--if such he was--who had now
released my arm--had done so, indeed, since the half light had been
reached--and implored him to tell me what was intended.

For answer--he guessed, no doubt, the import of my words--he pointed
to the horses and made signs I should mount one of them. And I,
incredulous, asking God inwardly what was meant, went toward the black
one and seizing its reins and twisting a lock of its mane around my
thumb prepared to do as I was bid, yet with my nerves tingling and
trembling so that I scarce knew whether I could reach the saddle or
not.

Then, ere the attempt was made, as I raised my foot to the iron, the
mute touched my arm, felt in his belt with the other hand and,
producing a piece of paper, gave it to me.

It was from Juana; ran thus in English:


Your road is through Samos, Caldelas and the other Viana. At Terroso
you will cross the frontier. The jailer will guide you to us. Come
quickly, so that thereby my fate may be decided.

               Juana.


That was all. All--from her to me! From her to me! No word of love
accompanying the message. Not one!

She had saved me in some way--had induced the Alcáide to bring about
my escape also--had done this, yet could send me no greeting such as
she must have known I hungered for. Was it shame, remorse, that made
her so silent and so cold? Heartbroken, I thrust the letter into my
pocket, and, at a sign from the mute, mounted the horse, he doing the
same with the other.

Then, ere we gave them their reins, he leant across and put into my
hands the sword he had carried under his arm since first he opened the
door of my cell; a sword long and serviceable-looking, with a great
hilt and curled quillon; one that I had seen another like somewhere,
though where it was I could not recall.

                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

'Twas over twenty leagues to Terroso, I learnt in the course of our
ride. Diminishing those leagues moment by moment, we went on and on,
the black horse that I bestrode never faltering in its quick pace, the
grey keeping close to it.

And I, my brain whirling, my heart beating tumultuously within my
breast, my whole being--my soul!--shaken by the release from an awful
death which had come to me, would have given all that I was possessed
of if from that stricken, silent, terrible companion by my side I
could have extracted one word--gleaned from him one jot or atom of
information! Yet to my repeated exclamations he, seeing that I was
speaking to him, shook his head persistently; when I made signs to him
in the alphabet which I felt sure he knew, he turned his face away and
rode on stolidly. Had a dead man, a spectre, been riding ever by my
side, swiftly when I rode swiftly, halting when I halted, neither
could have been more terrible to me than this living creature, so
immutable and impenetrable.

I was sore beset--distraught, my mind full of fearful fancies! Fancies
that I should find Juana dead--though, too, I imagined that she would
not slay herself until she had made sure of my safety, else why her
letter?--fancies that, since the letter contained no word or hint of
love, she had forced herself to tear me out of her heart forever;
forced herself to do so because now she knew she could never be aught
to me again. These fancies, these thoughts, were awful in their
intensity; were made doubly so by this silent creature who never
quitted my side.

And once my agony of nerves grew so great that I turned round upon
him--gesticulating fiercely--hating myself for my brutality in doing
so against one who was, in truth, my saviour--shrieking at him:

"Speak! Speak! For God's sake, speak! Utter some word. Give some sign
of being alive--a reasoning thing. Speak, I say, or leave me--else I
shall slay you."

Then I shuddered and could have slain my own self at the man's action.

For he turned and looked at me--it was in the fast gathering
twilight, as side by side always, we were slowly riding up a mountain
path--looked--then, as I gazed, the tears rolled down his coarse face!
And, poor unhappy, afflicted thing! those tears continued to trickle
down that face till night hid it from my eyes.

I knew now that he understood at least, that he comprehended the words
of pity and remorse I poured forth before the darkness came; at least
the touch I made gently on his sleeve was read aright by him. For on
his broad, expressionless face, to me for so long a stolid mask, there
came a placid smile, and once he returned my touch lightly as still we
rode on, and on, and on.

We halted that night to rest our horses and ourselves at a miserable
inn, high up in the mountains, a place round which the snow was
falling in great flakes, that seemed, indeed, to be embedded in snow.
A ghastly, horrid place in which, as I sat shuddering by the fire,
while my companion and the landlord slept near it--wondering if by now
Juana had accomplished her dreadful purpose, unable longer to bear the
company of the man, Morales, to whom she had sold herself; or, almost
worse still, the company of her sin stained father; wondering too, if
by now that splendid form was stiff in death!--I almost cursed the
escape that had come to me. In truth, I think that now, upon this
night, amidst the horrors of this lonely mountain inn, I was almost a
madman; for the soft beat of the flakes upon the glass of the window
seemed to my frenzied mind like the tapping of ghostly fingers; as I
fixed my eyes upon those flakes and saw them alight one by one upon
the panes and then dissolve and vanish, it looked to me as though they
were fingers that scratched at the window and were withdrawn only to
return a moment later. Also the wind screamed round the house--I
started once, feeling sure I heard a woman--Juana--shriek my name,
plucked at the sword by my side and would have made for the door, but
that the landlord laughed at me and pushed me back, saying that those
shrieks were heard nightly and all through the night during the
winter.

At last, however, I slept, wrapped in my cloak before the peat fire,
the mute in another chair by my side. And so, somehow, the night wore
through. The morning came, and we were on our road once more, ten
leagues still to be compassed ere the frontier was reached, with,
behind us, as now I gathered from my mutilated companion's manner in
answer to my questions, the possibility that we might be pursued. That
after us, in hot chase, might be coming some from Lugo who had
discovered our escape.

The mountain water courses and rivulets hummed beneath the frozen snow
bound over them by the bitter frost, the tree boughs waved above our
heads and across our path as, gradually descending once more to the
plain, the chestnuts and the oak trees took the place of the gaunt
black pines left behind above; once on this bitter morning we saw the
sun steal out from amidst the clouds--lying down low on the horizon as
though setting instead of rising. Yet on we rode for our lives, with
upon me a deeper desire than the salvation of my own existence--the
hope that I should be in time to save Juana, to wrench her from
Morales ere it was too late, to bear her away at last to happiness and
love unspeakable. Rode on, my black horse stumbling once over a mass
of stone rolled down from the heights above; the dappled grey coming
to its haunches from a similar cause, yet both lifted quickly by a
sharp turn of our wrists and rushing on again down the declivity,
danger in every stride and only avoided by God's mercy.

The leagues flew by--were left behind--a long billowy plain arrived
at, sprinkled with hamlets from which the cheerful smoke rose to the
sky; the mute had passes which took us through that other town of
Viana; the last spot of importance was reached--and passed!--that lay
between us and the border--between us and Portugal and safety.

Then once more our beasts slackened in their stride, again the ground
rose upward, once more the hills were before us, above them at the
summit was the frontier, Terroso. Another hour and we should be
there--Juana's and my fate determined.

To use whips--neither of us had spurs--was cruel, yet there was no
other way; therefore we plied them, pressed reeking flanks, rode on
and on mercilessly. And now the end was at hand; afar off I saw a
cabin over which floated both the banner of Spain and of Portugal. We
were there some moments later--the mute's papers again examined--our
passage allowed.

We had escaped from Spain!

"You ride quickly," the Portuguese _aduanista_ said; "seek some
others, perhaps, who come before you?" and he addressed himself to my
companion, probably because he bore the passports. Then continued: "If
'tis a señor and señora you desire, they are in the _fonda_ half a
league further on."

"_They_," he said, "'_They!_' God be praised!" I murmured. Had any
tragedy occurred it would not have been "they."

Not waiting to answer, but briefly nodding my thanks, we went on, the
last half league dwindling to little more than paces now.

And then I saw the _fonda_, a place no bigger than a wooden cabin, I
saw a woman seated on a bench outside against its wall, her elbows
upon her knees, her dark head buried in her hands.

She heard the ring of our horses' hoofs upon the road, all sodden as
it was with half-melted snow, and sprang to her feet--then advanced
some paces and, shading her eyes, looked up the way that we were
coming; dashed next her hand across those eyes as though doubting what
she saw, and ran down the road toward us.

As I leapt from my horse she screamed, "Mervan!" and threw herself
into my arms, her lips meeting mine in one long kiss, then staggered
back some paces from me, exclaiming:

"How! How, oh, my love, how--how have you escaped--found your way
here--to me?"

"How?" I repeated after her, startled at the question; startled, too,
at the tone of her voice. "How! Do I not owe my salvation to you--to
your power over him--the Alcáide?"

"My God! No!" she answered. "Never would he have aided you to escape."
Then, suddenly, as some thought struck her, she screamed aloud:
"Mervan--Mervan--where is my unhappy father?"

"Your father! Is he not here?"

"No! No! No! Oh, God! what has happened? Has he been left behind to
meet his doom?"

And, as she spoke, she reeled and would have fallen had I not caught
her in my arms.



CHAPTER XXVII.

"LIAR, I WILL KILL YOU!"


He had been left behind--and I was here! He whose escape had been
arranged for was still a prisoner--I, whose doom had been fixed, was
free.

What did it mean? What mystery had taken place?

One glance toward the _fonda_ fifty yards away was sufficient to show
that mystery there was--as unintelligible to another as to Juana. And
more than mystery!--that my presence here was as hateful as
unexpected, to one person at least. To Morales, the Alcáide!

For even as my love recovered sufficiently to be able to stand without
my assistance, though still leaning heavily upon me, I--looking toward
that _fonda_--saw Morales issuing rapidly from it, his sword carried
in his left hand, his right hand plucking the blade from the scabbard.
And--more ominous still of what his intentions were, as well as of his
fury!--as he ran toward us he flung the now empty sheath away from him
and rushed forward, the bare blade gleaming.

Then as he reached the spot where we both stood together, the mute
behind us--while, even as I too plucked the sword the poor creature
had furnished me with from its scabbard and stood upon my guard, I
saw that his stolid face expressed not only fear but something
else--astonishment!--Morales shouted, his words tumbling pell mell
over each other so much as to be difficult of understanding.

"Wretches! Traitor! Traitress! 'Tis thus I am deceived--hoodwinked!
Tricked and ruined so that your lover may be restored to your false
arms. So be it--thus, also, I avenge myself," and--horror!--he made a
pass at Juana as she stood by my side. He was a Spaniard--and his love
had turned to hate and gall!

Yet ere the shriek she uttered had ceased to ring on the wintry
morning air, the deadly thrust that was aimed full at her breast was
parried by my own blade; putting her behind me with my left hand, I
struck full at him, resolved that ere another five minutes were over
his own life should pay for that craven attempt; struck full at his
own breast, missing it only by an inch, yet driving him back from me.

Back, step by step, yet knowing even as I did so that' it was no odds
on me in this encounter, that here was a swordsman who would dispute
every thrust of mine; that it would be lucky if his long blade did not
thread my ribs ere my own weapon found his heart.

It behooved me to be careful, I knew. Already, in the first moment, he
had settled down to fighting carefully and cautiously; already one
devilish Italian thrust was given--he must have crossed the Alps, I
thought, to learn it!--that almost took me unawares; that, had my
parry not been quick, would have brought his quillon hurtling at my
breast, with the blade through me. Yet, it had failed! and with the
failure the chance was gone.

"I know your thrust," I whispered, maybe hissed, at him; "'twill serve
no more."

But even as I said these words it came to me that I should not win
this fight, that he was the better man--my master--at the game--that I
was lost. And as I thought this I saw--while we shifted ground a
little on the sodden snow--the mute standing gazing earnestly, almost
fascinated, upon us; I saw some people at the door of the _fonda_--a
man and a woman--regarding us with horror-stricken glances--I saw
Juana on her knees, perhaps praying! It might be so, since her head
was buried in her hands!

And if he won, if he slew me, even wounded and disabled me, she was
lost, too; with me out of the way, with her father dead or still a
prisoner, nothing could save her. Her last hope would be gone.

That spurred me, egged me on, put a fierce and fresh determination in
my heart, since I had not lost my courage, but only my confidence.
That, and one other thing; for I saw upon the melting snow beneath our
feet, even as we trod it into water, a tinge of crimson; I saw a few
drops lie spotting it--and I knew that that blood was not mine.
Therefore, I had touched him, had only missed his life by a hair's
breadth; next time it might not be drops--might be the heart's blood
of him who had sought that of my loved one!

Still, I could not do it, could not thrust through and through him.
Every drive, every assault, was parried easily. Once, when I lunged so
near him that I heard his silk waistcoat rip, he laughed a low,
mocking laugh as he thrust my blade aside with a turn of his iron
wrist; I could not even, as I tried, take him in the sword arm and so
disable him.

Also, I knew what was in his mind, specially since, for some few
moments, he had ceased to thrust back at me. He was bent on tiring me
out. Then--then--his opportunity would have come, would be at hand.

"Disable him! Disable him!" Why did those words haunt my brain, ring
through it again and again; seem to deaden even the scraping hiss of
steel against steel. "Disable him!" What memory was arising in that
brain of some one, something, long forgotten? A second later, even as
I felt my point bring pressed lower and lower by his own blade, knew a
lunge was coming--parried it as it came--safely once more, thank
God!--I remembered, knew what that memory meant.

Recalled a little, hunchbacked Italian _escrimeur_ who used to haunt a
fence school at the back of the Exchange in the Strand; a man whose
knowledge of attack was poor in the extreme, yet who could earn a
beggar's wage by teaching some marvellous methods of disarming an
adversary. And I had flung him a crown more than once to be taught his
tricks!

Now those crowns should bear interest!

I changed my tactics, lunged no more; our blades became silent; they
ceased to hiss like drops of water falling on live coals or hot iron;
almost they lay motionless together, mine over his, yet I feeling
through blade and hilt the strength of that black, hairy wrist which
held the other weapon. Also, I think he felt the strength of mine;
once his eye shifted, though had the moment been any other the shift
would have been unnoticeable.

That was my time! Swift as lightning, I, remembering the dwarf's
lessons of long ago--why did I remember also the little sniggering
chuckle he used to utter as he taught them?--drew back my sword an
inch, then thrust, then back again with a sharp wrench, and, lo!
Morales' sword was flying through the air three feet above his
head--he was weaponless! My own was drawn back a second later, another
moment I should have avenged his assassin's thrust at Juana--yet I
could not do it. For he, recognising he was doomed, stood there before
me, his arms folded over his breast, his eyes confronting mine.

"Curse you!" he said, "you have won. Well--kill me. At once."

No need for me to say that could not be. In the moment that I twisted
his weapon out of his wrist I had meant to slay him, had drawn back my
own weapon to thrust it through chest and lungs and back, and stretch
him dead at my feet--yet now I spared him.

Villain as he was--scoundrel who would traffic with a broken-hearted
woman for her honour and her soul as a set-off against her father's
safety, and, in doing so, also betray the country he served--I could
not slay a defenceless man.

His sword had fallen at my feet; one of them was upon it. I motioned
to him now to return to the _fonda_--to begone.

"You have missed your quarry," I said; "'twill never fall to your lure
again. Away!"

Yet, still standing there before us--for now Juana had once more flown
to my side, and was sobbing bitterly, her wild, passionate words
expressing partly her thanks to God for my double safety, and partly
her bewailings that her father had gone to his fate--he had something
to say, could not depart without a malediction.

"Curse you both!" he exclaimed once more. "Curse you! Had I known of
your trick you should all have burnt and grilled on the _braséro_ ere
this--ay, even you, wanton!--ere I had let you fool me so."

Then he turned away as though to go back to the _fonda_, yet returned
again, and, striding back to where the mute stood motionless, his
expression one of absolute vacancy--as though, in truth, he was only
now become dumb from utter surprise--he struck at him full in the face
with his clenched fist.

"Dolt, idiot, hound!" he said. "Was it to aid in such treachery
against me as this that I saved you from the Inquisition? God! that I
had left them to take your useless life! Dumb fool!"

I, standing there, with Juana still clinging to my neck, as she had
done since the duel was over, saw the man stagger back and wipe the
blood from his lips; saw, too, his hands clench firmly; saw him take
one step forward, as though he meant to throw himself upon Morales;
then stop suddenly, and do nothing. Perhaps even now, after this foul
blow, he remembered that he had been saved from death once by him who
struck that blow.

But a moment later he approached the Alcáide, though now humbly, and
like a beaten slave who sues for pardon, and entreats that no further
punishment shall be dealt out to him, and, an instant after, began,
with fingers and hands and many strange motions, to tell his master
something--something in a dumb language that was, still, not the deaf
and dumb language in common use, and which I myself chanced to know,
yet one that none could doubt both of these men were in the habit of
conversing in.

He was telling some strange tale, I saw and understood by one glance
at my late opponent's face; neither could any doubt that who gazed
upon it!

At first that face expressed amazement, incredulity--all the emotions
that are to be observed on the countenance of one who listens to some
story which he either cannot believe, or thinks issues, at best, from
a maniac. Yet gradually, too, there came over the face of Morales
another look--the look of one who does believe at last, in spite of
himself; also there dawned on it a hideous, gloating expression, such
as might befit a fiend who listens to the tortured cries of a victim.

What did it mean? What tale was that stricken creature telling him by
those symbols, which none but he understood? What? What?

A moment later we knew--if Morales did not lie to us.

The mute had ceased his narrative, his hands made no further signs,
and, slowly, he stepped back again to where the horses we had
travelled on stood together, the reins of one tied to the other--and
Morales turned to us, his features still convulsed with that horrible
expression of gloating.

"I have wronged you," he said, raising his forefinger and pointing it
at Juana, who shuddered and clasped me closer even as he did so; "and
you," glancing at me. "The treachery was not yours, but another's;
unless--unless"--and he paused as though seeking for words--"unless it
should be termed otherwise. Say, not treachery, but--sublime
sacrifice."

"What!" from both her lips and mine. "What!"

"Your father," he said, "had his chance"--and again that forefinger
was pointed at her--"this poor fool, my servant, went to set him free;
the horse was waiting for him--only, instead, it has borne _you_ to
safety"--and now he glanced at me--"also there was his sword for
him--that by your side."

"My God! My God!" I heard Juana whisper on my breast.

"Only he--this buccaneer--would not accept it, not take it. He,
stained deep with crime as he was, his name an accursed one through
all the Indies--men spit upon the ground there, they say, with
loathing when they hear it mentioned, even now--could bear all things
but one. Shall I tell you what that one thing is?" and he glanced
again at Juana, a very hell of hate in his look.

But she could only moan upon my bosom and murmur: "My father! Oh, my
father!"

"He could not bear," Morales went on, "that his child should be what
he knew she had become by now--my friend----"

"Liar!" I cried. "I will kill you for this."

"Could not bear that she should bring deeper disgrace than even he had
done upon your tainted names. Therefore he refused to come; therefore
he preferred the flames to which he has gone"--a wild, piercing scream
broke from Juana as he said those words--"and--so--so--that there
should be nothing rise up to prevent him from going to his death, so
that he should put away from himself all chance of salvation from that
death and earn his oblivion from disgrace, he persuaded this fool that
a mistake had been made--that 'twas you, not he, who was to be saved,
allowed to escape."

"You lie," I said again. "You lie. Some part of this story is true,
some false, Gramont never believed that she would give herself to you;
knew that she meant to slay herself the instant she was assured of his
safety. Spanish dog, you lie, and I will have your life for it."

"It is true," he said hoarsely, "as true as that an hour after you
left Lugo he was led out and burnt at the _braséro_--the _braséro_
that was prepared for you. Now," and once more he addressed Juana,
"you have your lover back again--be happy in the possession; in the
knowledge that his life is saved by the loss of your father's. Be
happy in that."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE DEAD MAN'S EYES--THE DEAD MAN'S HANDS.


Was Juana dying, I asked myself that night--dying of misery and of all
that she had gone through? God, He only knew--soon I should know, too.

Ere I had carried her to the _fonda_, Morales had disappeared, his
afflicted follower with him--ere we reached the miserable room, in
which she had passed the two nights that had elapsed since she had
come here with him who had bartered for the sacrifice of her honour
against her father's safety, I heard the trample of horses' hoofs, I
saw from the inn window both those men ride swiftly away, their road
being that which led on into Portugal.

It was not possible that I should follow him and exact vengeance for
all that he had done or attempted to do against her, force him once
more to an encounter, disarm him again--and, when he was thus
disarmed, spare him no further. Not possible, because, henceforth, my
place was by her side. I must never leave her again in life--leave her
who had come to this through her love of me, her determination to
follow me through danger after danger, reckless of what might befall.

She lay now upon her bed, feverish and sometimes incoherent, yet, at
others, sane and in her right mind, and it was at one of such moments
as these that I, sitting by her side, heard her whisper:

"Mervan, where is that man--Morales?"

"He is gone, dear heart; he will trouble you no more.
And--and--remember we are free. As soon as you are restored we can
leave here--there is nothing to stop us now. My journey through Spain
and France can never be recommenced--we must make for England by sea
somehow. Then, when I have placed you in safety, I must find my way
across to Flanders."

For a while she lay silent after I had said this; lay there, her
lustrous eyes open, and with the fever heightening and intensifying,
if such were possible, her marvellous beauty. For now the carmine of
her cheeks and lips was--although fever's ensign!--even more
strikingly lovely than before; this woman on whom I gazed so fondly
was beyond all compare the most beautiful creature on which my eyes
had ever rested. As I had thought at first, so, doubly, I thought now.

Presently she moaned a little, not from bodily pain, but agony of
mind, as I learnt shortly--then she said:

"Mervan, why do you stay by my side--why not go at once back to your
own land? Leave me?"

"Juana!" I exclaimed, deeming that I had mistaken her state, and that,
in truth, she was beside herself. Then added, stupidly and in a dazed
manner: "Leave you!"

"Ay. Why stay by me? You have heard, know all, whose child--to my
eternal shame!--I am. The child of that bloodstained man, Gramont.
Ay," she said, again, "he, that other, Morales, spoke true. There is
no name in all the Indies remembered with such hate and loathing as
his. And I--I--am his child. Go--leave me to die here."

"Juana," I said, "can you hear me, understand what I am saying--going
to say to you? Is your brain clear enough to comprehend my words?
Speak--answer me."

For reply she turned those eyes on me; beneath the dark dishevelled
curls I saw their clear glance--I knew that all I should say would be
plain to her.

"Listen to my words," I continued therefore. "Listen--and believe;
never doubt more. Juana, I love you with my whole heart and
soul--before all and everything else this world holds for me. I love
you. I love you. I love you," and as I spoke I bent forward and
pressed my lips to her hot burning ones. "And you tell me to leave
you, because, forsooth! you are his child. Oh! my sweet, my sweet, if
you were the child of one five thousand times worse than he has been,
ay! even though Satan claimed you for his own, I would love you till
my last breath, would never quit your side. Juana, we are each other's
forever now."

"No! No! No!"

"Yes, I say," I cried almost fiercely. "Yes. We are each other's
alone. You are mine, mine, mine. I have no other thought, no other
hope in all this world but you. If--if--our faith were the same I
would send for a priest now who should make us one; there should be no
further moment elapse in all the moments of eternity before you were
my wife."

I felt the long slim hand tighten on mine for an instant, then release
it a moment later; but she said no more for a time. Yet the look on
her face was one of happiness extreme. After a while, however, she
spoke again.

"The admiral knew," she whispered. "He had found out my secret."

For a moment I could not recall what she referred to--the incidents
which had happened in such quick succession since we had quitted the
fleet had almost obliterated from my memory the recollection of all
that had taken place prior to that time. Yet now I remembered,
and--remembering--there came back to me Sir George Rooke's strange
diffidence after she had seized his hand and pressed it to her heart.
Also, I recalled the deference with which he had treated her whom I
thought then to be no more than a handsome, elegant youth, as well as
my feeling of surprise at that deference.

And still, as I reflected over this, there was one other thing in
connection with him which also came back to me; his words, to wit,
that there were even worse things than shot or steel or death to cloud
a brave man's career--that many a soldier had gone down before worse
than these. And I knew now against what he had intended to warn
me--against the woman now lying here sore stricken, the woman whom I
loved and worshipped, the one who had been to me as faithful as a dog.

"So be it," I said to myself, "so be it. If I am to become bankrupt
and shipwrecked through my love for her, I must be. Henceforth she is
all in all to me, and there is nothing else in my life. Yet, up to
now, the admiral's warning has been but little realised--I owe no ruin
to her, but, rather, salvation."

For I could not but recall that 'twas through her that any loophole of
escape had come to me in the prison of Lugo; to her unhappy father
that I owed, if Morales had spoken true, the absolute escape itself.

Even as I sat there meditating thus she moaned again: "My father. My
lost, doomed father," and once more I heard her whisper: "His child!
His child! The saints pity me!"

And now I set myself to place that lost father before her in a far
different light than that in which she regarded him--to make her
believe that, when almost all in the Indies who had their account with
the sea had in their time been much as he had been, his crimes were
not so black as they appeared to her; to also paint in glowing colours
that sublime sacrifice--Morales had termed it truthfully!--which he
had made in remaining behind whilst I escaped, in dying while opening
to me the path to life and freedom.

"Juana, my sweet," I said, speaking low, yet as sympathetically as I
could to her, "Juana, you deem his sin greater than it is. Also,
remember, 'tis almost certain Morales lies when he said he died
because--because--of your flight with him. For, remember--what the
vagabond forgot in his rage and hate!--remember, he knew of your
resolve, your determination to pretend to give yourself to him in
exchange for his safety."

As I said these words I saw her eyes glisten, saw her head turned more
toward me on the pillow--in her face the expression of one to whose
mind comes back the recollection of a forgotten fact, a truth.

"_Diôs!_" she whispered, "it was so. He knew of my intention. 'Tis
true; Morales lied. Yet," she went on a moment later, "yet that cannot
cleanse him from his past sins, purge his soul from the crimes with
which 'tis stained."

"Crimes!" I re-echoed, "Crimes! Think, recall, my beloved, what those
crimes were. Those of buccaneer, 'tis true, yet not so bad but that
all like him were not deemed too sunken in sin to be refused pardon by
Spain, by France, even by my own land. Those pardons were sent out to
the Indies shortly before he was thought to be lost--had he returned
to France, then he would have held a position of honour under Louis."

"How?" she asked--and now I noticed that in her face there seemed to
be a look of dawning hope, a look too, as though with that newborn
hope there was a return of strength accompanied by an absence of such
utter despair as had broken her down. "How know you that?"

"I was there in the court when he was tried," I said, "I heard his
words--and none who heard them could doubt their truth, no more than
they could his fierce denouncement of that unutterable villain, Eaton.
Juana," I said, endeavouring to speak as impressively as was in my
power, to thrust home more decisively the growing conviction to her
heart that Gramont was not the devil he had been painted, "you must
teach yourself to think less ill of your father than report has made
him. And--and remember, he could have escaped an he would; it was, as
that man said, a sublime sacrifice when he went to his doom."

"But why?" she asked, "why?" Though even as she did so, I saw, I knew,
that in her heart there was the hope and wish to find something that
might whiten his memory for her.

"Why," I repeated, bending near to her, speaking as deeply and
earnestly as I could; above all, the softened feeling I was
endeavouring to bring about in her heart toward that lost, dead father
must be made to grow, until at last she should regard his memory with
pity if naught else. "Why, because as I do believe, as I believe
before God, he knew we loved each other, Juana----"

"Ah, Mervan!"

"Because his life was already far spent, because ours were in their
spring; because, it may be, he knew that with him gone and me escaped
in his place there was the hope of many happy years before you--with
me--of years always together, of our being ever by each other's side
until the end. Juana, my beloved, my love, think not of him as one
beyond pardon and redemption, but rather as one who purified forever
the errors of his life by the deep tenderness and sacrifice of his
end."

I had won.

As I concluded she raised herself from the pillows on which she lay,
the long shapely arms met round my neck, the dark curly head sank to
my shoulder; soon nothing broke the silence of the room but her sobs.
Yet ever and again she whispered through her tears: "My father, my
unhappy father. May God forgive me if I have judged you too harshly."

Soon after that I left her sleeping peacefully and with, as it seemed
to me, much of her fever gone--yet even as she slept I, sitting
watching by her side, saw still the tears trickle forth from beneath
the long eyelashes that fringed her cheeks, and knew that in her sleep
she was dreaming of him.

But again I told myself that I had won; that henceforth the memory of
her father's erring life would not stand between her and me, between
our love.

The peasant who kept the miserable inn, and whose curiosity as to all
that had taken place recently--the arrival of Juana and Morales, the
duel, and then the rapid departure of him and the mute, while I
remained behind in his place--was scarcely appeased by my curt and
stern information that the lady above was shortly to become my wife,
told me that there was no suitable sleeping place for me other than
the public room. The other señor, he said, had had to make shift with
that, since the one spare room which the señora occupied was the only
one available in the house. He supposed, he added gruffly, that I,
too, could do the same thing. There was a bench--and he pointed as he
spoke to a rough wooden thing which did not promise much ease or
rest--on which the other señor had slept; also a deep chair, in which
one might repose easily before the fire. Would that do? Yes, I
answered, either would do very well. I was fatigued, and could sleep
anywhere. All I asked was that I should be left alone.

This was done, though ere the man and his wife departed to their
quarters for the night the latter took occasion to make a remark to
me. The lady, she observed, if she might make so bold as to say it,
seemed to be of an undecided frame of mind. When she and the other
señor arrived she had understood that he was the person to whom she
was about to be married. It was strange, she thought, that the lady
should elope over the border with one señor, to be married to another.
However, she added, it was no affair of hers.

"It is no affair of yours," I said sternly once more. "Leave me alone
and interfere not in our affairs. Your bill," I continued, "will be
paid; that is sufficient." Whereon she said that was all that was
required, and so, at last, I was left to myself.

Left to myself to sit in the great chair before the fire and muse on
all that had lately occurred to make my journey toward Flanders a
failure; to muse still more deeply on the love that had come to me
unsought, unthought of; the love that, when I had at last accomplished
my task and rejoined Marlborough, would, I hoped, crown my life.

Yet, as the snow beat against the window, for once more it was a rough
night and the wind howled here as it had howled the night before,
across in Spain--while as before the flakes falling on the rude panes
seemed to my mind to resemble ghostly finger-tips that touched the
glass and then were drawn off it back into the darkness without--I
thought also of the now dead and destroyed man, the buccaneer who, all
blood-guilty as he was, had yet gone to a doom that he might have
escaped from.

And my thought prevented sleep, even though I had not now slept for
many, many hours--my terrible reflections unstrung me--it seemed
almost as if the spirit of that dead man had followed me, was outside
the rough wooden door; as if, amidst those falling and swift-vanishing
snowflakes on the glass, I saw his eyes glaring out of the blackness
into the room. And soon I became over-wrought, the gentle beat of the
snow became the tap of a hand summoning me to open and admit his
spectral form--an awful fantasy took possession of me!

Was, I asked myself--as furtively I turned my eyes to those solemn,
silent flakes that fell upon the window pane, rested there a moment
gleaming white, then vanished into nothingness--was the lost soul of
that man hovering outside the door or that window--the soul that but a
few hours ago had quitted his body?

If I looked again at the casement should I see, as though behind some
dark veil, the eyes of Gramont glaring into the room; see those flakes
of snow take more tangible form--the form of a dead man's fingers
scratching at the panes, tearing at them to attract my attention?

Distraught--maddened by the terror of my thoughts, fearful of myself,
of the silence that reigned through the house, I sprang to my feet--I
was mad!--I must go out into the gloom and blackness of the night----

God!--what was that?

There _was_ a tapping at the door--a footstep--next a tap at the
window. The hands were there; I saw the fingers--the snow falling
round them--on them. I saw, too, the eyes of Gramont peering in at me.

"What is it?" I cried hoarsely. "What? What?"

Then through the roar of the tempest without, through the shriek of
the wind, above the loud hum of the torrent, I heard--or was I mad and
dreaming that I heard?--the words:

"Open. To me--her father."



CHAPTER XXIX.

"LET US KISS AND PART."


As I unbarred the door that gave directly from the miserable
living-room of the house to the outside he came in, the snow upon the
shoulders of the cape he wore--some flakes even upon his face.

"You are alive! Escaped!" I whispered, recognising that this was no
phantom of my brain, but the man himself. "Safe! Thank God!"

"Where is she?" he asked, pausing for no greeting, giving me none. "My
child! Is _she_ safe? Or--have I come too late?"

"She is here--safe. It is not too late."

His eyes roamed round the room; then, not seeing her, he continued:

"Where? I must see her--once."

"_Once?_"

"For the last time. After that we shall never meet again. The shadow
of my life, my past, must fall on her no more. Yet--once--I must see
her. Lead me to where she is."

"She has been ill, delirious--is crushed by all that has
happened--by----"

"All that she has learnt," he interrupted, his voice deep and
solemn--broken, too. "Yet I must see her."

"She is asleep above."

For answer to this he made simply a sign, yet one I understood very
well--a sign that I should delay no longer.

"Come," I said, "come." And together we went up the narrow stairs to
the room she occupied--stole up them, as though in fear of waking her.

Pushing the door open gently, we saw by the rays of the _veilleuse_,
which I had ordered to be placed in the room, that she was sleeping;
observed also that our entry did not disturb her; also it was easy to
perceive that she was dreaming. Sometimes, as we standing there gazed
down, the long, dark lashes that drooped upon her cheeks quivered;
from beneath them there stole some tears; once, too, the rosy lips
parted, and a sigh came from between them.

"My child, my child!" Gramont whispered to himself, "child of her whom
I loved better than my life--that we should meet at last, only to part
forever!"

And from his own eyes the tears rolled down--from his! He stooped and
bent over her; his face approached hers; his lips touched that white
brow, over which the short-cut hair curled in such glorious
dishevelment, while he murmured:

"Unclose those eyelids once, look for the last time on me." Then he
half-turned his head away, as though to prevent his own tears from
falling on and awakening her.

Was he a sorcerer, I wondered, even as I watched--a sorcerer, as well
as other things unnamable? Had he the power over his own child to thus
reach her mind and brain, even though both were sunk in a deep,
feverish sleep? In truth, it appeared so.

For, even as he spoke, those eyelids did unclose, the dark, dreamy
eyes gazed up into his, while, slowly, the full, white, rounded arms
encircled his neck, and their lips met, and from him I heard the
whispered words:

"Farewell, farewell, forever. Oh, my child, my child!"

Yet--and I thanked God for it then, as ever since I have thanked Him
again and again!--he had turned away ere the answering whisper came
from her lips, had not heard the words that fell from them--the words:

"Mervan, Mervan, my beloved!"

Thanked God he had not known how, in her sleep, she deemed those
kisses mine, and dreamed of me alone.

               *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

"'Twas went on the storm increased, the snow no longer came in flakes
against the window of the room below, in which we sat, but, instead,
lay thick and heavy in masses on the sill without--was driven, too,
against the window by the fierce, tempestuous wind that howled down
from the mountains above, and rocked the miserable inn.

"There is no going on to-night," Gramont said, coming in out of the
storm after having gone forth to attend to the horse that had brought
him from Lugo, and having bestowed it in the stables, where were the
animals on which Juana and I had also ridden. "No going on to-night."
Then, changing the subject abruptly, he said: "Where is that man?"

Not pretending to doubt as to whom he made allusion, I said:

"The Alcáide?"

"Ay, the Alcáide."

Whereon I told him of all that had happened since my arrival with the
mute, and of his immediate departure further on into Portugal.

"You should have slain him," he said, "the instant you had disarmed
him. You loved Juana and she you--she told me so when she divulged his
scheme to me in the prison--you should never have let him go free with
life."

"I _had_ disarmed him. I could not slay a weaponless, defenceless
man."

"One slays a snake--awake or sleeping. He merited death."

"Yet to him, in a manner, we all owe our lives. Juana--I--you."

"Owe our lives! Owe our lives to him! To one who trafficked with my
girl's honour as against her father's freedom; a man who betrayed his
trust to his own country as a means whereby to gratify his own evil
desires! And for you--for me--what do we owe him? The chance of my
escape came from another's hand than his."

"From another's! You could have escaped even without that vile compact
made between--God help us--Juana and him?"

"Ay--listen. You stood by my side in the court when they tried us; you
heard a voice in that court; saw the man who called out in loud tones
to the man, Morales. You saw him, observed, maybe, that he bore about
him the signs of a sailor."

As he spoke there came to me a recollection of something more than
this--a recollection of where I had seen that man again, of how it was
he who crouched behind the fallen masses of blasted rock in the
passage beneath the bed of the river through which I had passed to
freedom; also, I remembered the great gold rings in his ears, and the
glistening of one upon the guarding of his cloak as he shrank back
into the darkness.

"I remember him," I said, "very well--also, I saw him again, on the
night that mute led me forth, helped me to escape."

"'Tis so. That man saved me, was bent on saving me from the moment he
saw my face in the court. He is a Biscayan--yet we had met in other
lands; once I had saved his life--from Eaton. He--that doubly damned
traitor--that monster of sin--had taken him prisoner in a pink he
owned, yet had not captured her without a hard fight, in which this
man, Nuñez Picado, nearly slew him. Then, this was Eaton's revenge: He
bound him and set him afloat in a dismantled ketch he had by him, that
to which Picado was bound being a barrel of gunpowder. And in that
barrel was one end of a slow match, the other end alight and trailing
the length of the ketch's deck."

"My God!"

"So slow a match that it would take hours ere it reached the powder,
hours in which the doomed wretch would suffer ten thousand-fold the
tortures of the damned. Yet one thing Eaton forgot--forgot that those
hours of long drawn-out horror to his victim were also hours in which
succour might come. And it was so. I passed that craft drifting slowly
to and fro off Porto Rico. In the blaze of the noontide I saw a
brighter, redder light than the sparkle of sun on counter and
brass--when I stepped on board the ketch there was not a foot of the
slow-match left--not an hour longer of life left to the man. Only, the
bitterness of death was over for him then--he was a raving maniac, and
so remained for months."

"He has at last repaid you in full."

"Ay! In full. He knew the secret way into the ramparts; all was
concocted, all arranged for our escapes."

"For yours and hers?"

"For hers and mine. Had it not been that you had to be saved
also--that the freedom which Juana had obtained from Morales for me
must be transferred to you, since I needed it not, she would never
have been allowed to go forth with him. I or Picado would have slain
him in the prison and escaped with her."

"I begin to understand."

"'Twas best, however, to let her go forth unknowing--at least it
removed him away from what had to be done--made it certain that he
could not impede your escape. The rest was easy. I persuaded the mute
that 'twas you, not I, whom it was intended to save, that 'twas for
you her letter was meant, that it was I who was doomed."

"And Eaton? Eaton?" I asked.

"Eaton has paid the forfeit of his treachery," he said. "It has
rebounded on his own head. The _braséro_ thirsted for its victim--the
populace for its holiday. They have had it. Trust Nuñez Picado for
that."

He said no more, neither then nor later, and never yet have I learnt
how that vilest of men was the substitute for those whom he had hoped
and endeavoured to send to the flames. Yet, also, never have I doubted
that it was done, since certain it is that from that time he has never
again crossed my path.

"The storm increases," Gramont said, as he strode to the window and
peered out into the darksome night. "Yet--yet--I must go on at
daybreak. I--I have that which needs take me on."

"Stay here with us," I cried, "stay here. Juana will be my wife at the
first moment chance offers. Stay."

"Nay," he said. "Nay. She and I must never meet again. That is the
expiation of my life which I have set myself--I will go through with
it. In that last kiss above, I took my farewell of her forever in this
world."

"What will you do?" I asked through my now fast-falling tears, tears
that none needed to be ashamed of; tears that none, listening to his
heart-broken words as they dropped slowly from his lips, could have
forborne to shed. "What is your life to be?"

"God only knows," he replied; "yet one of penitence, of prayers for
forgiveness so long as that life lasts. Thereby--thereby--I shall be
fitter for the end. I am almost old now; it may not be far off."

Silence came upon us after that--a silence broken only by the howl of
the wind outside the lonely house, by the thud of snow falling now and
again from the roof and eaves--blown off by the fury of the tempest.
But broken by scarcely aught else, unless 'twas a sigh that
occasionally, and all unwittingly, as I thought, escaped from that
poor sinner's overcharged breast. Yet, for the rest, nothing; no sound
from that room above, where Juana lay sleeping; nothing but sometimes
the expiring logs falling together with a gentle clash in the grate.

Then suddenly, as I almost dozed on one side of those logs, he being
on the other, I heard him speaking to me, his voice deep, sonorous and
low--perhaps he feared it might reach her above!--yet clear and
distinct.

"Evil," he said, "as my existence has been, misjudge me not. None
started on life's path meaning better than I. God help me! none
drifted into worse extremes. Will you hear my story--such as 'tis meet
you should know--you who love my child?"

I bowed my head; I whispered, "Yes." Once, because I pitied him, I
gently touched his hand with mine.

"I was a sailor," he went on, his dark eyes gleaming tenderly at that
small offering of my sympathy, "bred up to the sea, the only child of
a poor Protestant woman. Later--when Louis the king first fell under
the thrall of the wanton, De Maintenon, my mother died of starvation,
ruined by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, ruined ere that
revocation by the shadow it cast before it on all of our faith. Think
you that what was doing in the Indies by the Spaniards made me love
the followers of the Romish church more?"

He paused a moment--again he went on:

"In the Indies to which I had wandered, I met with men who had sworn
to extirpate, if might be, every Spaniard, every one of those who in
their time swore that there was to be no peace beyond the line. That
was their oath--we helped them to keep it, made it our watchword, too.
All of us, Morgan, Pointis, Avery, Lolonois, your other countryman,
Stede Bonnet, a hundred others, all of different lands, yet all of one
complexion--hatred against Spain. And there was no peace beyond the
line. You are a soldier, may be one for years, yet you will never know
blood run as blood ran then. You may rack cities, even Louis' own
capital, you will never know what sharing booty means as we knew it.
Ere I was thirty I possessed a hundred thousand gold pistoles, ere
another year had passed I owned nothing but the sword by my side, the
deck I trod."

"Yet," I said, "when you were lost--disappeared--you left your child a
fortune--which Eaton stole."

"I did more," he answered. "I left her that--but--I left her another
which Eaton could not steal. She has it now; it is, it must be safe.
Do you know your wife brings you a great dowry?"

I started--I had never thought of this!--yet, ere I could say aught,
he went on again.

"I pass over much. I come to twenty years ago. Eaton was my
lieutenant; we were about to besiege Maracaibo, a gallant company
three hundred strong. Well, let me hurry--see, the daylight is coming.
I must away--Maracaibo fell, our plunder was great. Also, we had many
prisoners. Amongst them one, a girl, young and beautiful; God! she was
an angel!"

"Juana's mother that was to be," I whispered, feeling sure.

"Hear me. She was my prize--there were others, but I heeded them not,
had eyes only for her. Her ransom was fixed at five thousand pistoles,
because she was the niece of the wealthiest man of all, to be paid ere
we sailed three days later. And I prayed that they might never be
forthcoming, that I might bear her away with me, teach her to love me
as I loved her."

"And they were not paid?" I asked breathlessly.

"We did not sail in three days' time; the money of the place had been
sent away inland on our approach; also one-half our body were all mad
with drink ashore. 'Twas more nigh three weeks ere we were ready to
depart."

"And the lady?"

"Her uncle had died meanwhile of a fever--yet--yet--the ransom was
forthcoming. She was affianced to a planter; he came on board my ship,
and with him he brought the gold."

"Ah!"

"My oath bound me to take it--had I refused, my brethren had the
right--since we had laws regulating all things amongst us--to remove
me from my command. I had to see him count the gold out on the cabin
table, to tell her she was free to go."

"And she went?" I asked again, almost breathless.



CHAPTER XXX.

GONE.


"She went," he continued, "and I thought that she was gone from me
forever, since, filibuster as I was, as I say, my oath to my
companions bound me to set her free upon payment of the ransom. Yet,
by heaven's grace, she was mine again ere long."

He paused, looking out of the snow-laden window through which there
stole now a greyness which told of the coming of the wintry day;
pointed toward it as though bidding me remember that his time with me
was growing short; then went on:

"I was ashore for the last time before we sailed for Port Royal; those
of us who were something better than brutish animals seeking for those
who were wallowing in debauchery; finding them, too, either steeped in
drink, or so overcome by their late depravity that they had to be
carried on board the ships like logs. Then, as we passed down a street
seeking our comrades, I saw her again--saw her lovely face at the
grilled window of a house that looked as though it might be a convent;
at a window no higher from the ground than my own head. And she saw me
too, made a sign that I should stop, should send on my company out of
earshot; which done, she said:

"'Save me. For God's sake, save me!'"

"'Save you, Señorita,' I whispered, for I knew not who might be
lurking near, might be, perhaps, within the dark room to which no ray
of the blazing sun seemed able to penetrate; 'save you from what, from
whom?'

"'From him who ransomed me--_Diôs!_ that you had not taken the money.
I hate him, was forced to be affianced to him, am a prisoner here in
this convent until to-morrow, when I am to become his wife.'

"'Yet, Señorita,' I murmured--'how to do it? These walls seem strong,
each window heavily grated, doubtless the house well guarded--and--and
we sail at daybreak.'

"'Yet an entrance may be made by the garden,' she whispered in reply;
'the house is defended by negroes only--my room at the top of the
stairs. Save me. Save me.'"

Again Gramont paused--again he pointed at the day-spring
outside--hurriedly he went on:

"I saved her. Twenty of us--that vile Eaton was one!--passed through
the garden at midnight--up those stairs--killing three blacks who
opposed us"--even as he spoke I remembered Eaton's ravings in _La
Mouche Noire_ as to the dead men glaring down into the passage; knew
now of what his frenzied mind had been thinking on--"bore her away.
Enough! three months later, we were married in Jamaica!"

He rose as though to go forth and seek his horse, determined to
make his way on in spite of the snow that lay upon the ground in
masses--because, as I have ever since thought, he had sworn to undergo
his self-imposed expiation of never gazing more upon his child's
face!--then he paused, and spoke once more:

"She died," and now his voice was broken, trembled, "in giving birth
to her who is above; died when I had grown rich again--so rich that
when I sailed for France, my pardon assured, my commission as
Lieutenant du Roi to Louis in my pocket, I left her with Eaton, not
even then believing how deep a villain he was; thinking, too, that I
should soon return. Left with him, also, a fortune for her, What
happened to her and that fortune you have learnt. Yet, something else
you have to learn. Her mother's name had been Belmonte, and when Juana
fled from Eaton, driven thence by his cruelty, she, knowing this,
found means to communicate with an old comrade of mine, by then turned
priest and settled at the other end of the island--at Montego. Now,
see how things fall out; how, even to one belonging to me, God
is good. 'Twas in '86 I sailed for France, my commission in my
cabin--nailed in my pride to a bulkhead--when, alas! madman as I was,
I encountered a great ship--a treasure ship, as I believed, sailing
under Spanish colours. And--and--the devil was still strong in
me--still strong the hatred of Spain--the greed and lust of plunder.
God help me! God help and pardon me!" and as he spoke he beat his
breast and paced the dreary room, now all lit up by the daylight from
without. Even as I write I see and remember him, as I see and remember
so many other things that happened in those times.

"We boarded her," he continued, a moment later; "we took her treasure;
she was full of it--yet even as we did so I knew that I was lost
forever in this world, all chance of redemption gone--my hopes of
better things passed away forever. For she was sailing under false
colours; she was a French ship, one of Louis' own, and, seeing that we
ourselves carried the Spanish flag, the better to escape the ships of
war of Spain that were all about, had herself run them up. And we
could not slay them and scuttle the ship--we had passed our word for
their safety--moreover, an we would have done so 'twas doubtful if we
should have succeeded. There were women on board, and, though the men
fought but half-heartedly to guard the treasure that was their king's,
they would have fought to the death for them. Therefore, we emptied
the vessel of all that it had--we left them their lives--let them go
free."

"But why, why?" I asked, still not comprehending how this last attack
upon another ship--and that but one of many stretching over long
years!--should be so fateful to him, "why not still go on to France,
commence a new life under better surroundings?"

"Why?" he repeated, "why? Alas! you do not understand. I, a
commissioned officer of the French king, had made war on his ships,
taken his goods; also," and he drew a long breath now, "also
there were those on board who knew and recognised me--we had met
before--knew I was Gramont. That was enough. There was no return to
France for me; or, if once there, nothing but the block or the wheel."

"God pity you," I gasped, "to have thrown all chance away thus--thus!"

He seemed not to heed my words of sympathy, wrung from me by my swift
comprehension of all he had lost; instead, he stood there before me,
almost like those who are turned to stone, making no movement, only
speaking as one speaks who encounters a doom that has fallen on him,
as one who tells how hope and he have parted forever on wide,
diverging roads.

"There were others besides myself," he continued, "who had ruined all
by their act of madness, others of my own land who had gained their
pardon, and lost it now forever, flung away all hopes of another life,
of happier days to come, for the dross that we apportioned between
ourselves, though in our frenzy we almost cast it into the sea. As for
my share, though 'twas another fortune, I would not touch a pistole,
but sent it instead to the priest I have spoken of--sent it by a sure
hand--and bade him keep it for my child, add it to that which Eaton
held for her; told him, too, to guard it well, since neither he nor
she would ever see me more!"

"And after--after?" I asked.

"After, we disbanded--parted. I went my way, they theirs; earned my
living hardly, yet honestly, in Hispaniola; should never have left the
island had I not discovered that Eaton, who even then sometimes passed
under the name of Carstairs--that was his _honest_ name--and who had
long since disappeared from my knowledge, was having a large amount of
goods and merchandise shipped under that name in the fleet of
galleons, about to sail as soon as possible. And then--then--knowing
how he had treated the child I left in his care--the child of my dead
and lost love--I swore to sail in those galleons, to find him, to
avenge----" He paused, exclaiming, "Hark! What is that?"

Above--I heard it as soon as he--there was a footfall on the floor. We
knew that Juana was moving, had arisen.

"Go to her," he said, and I thought that his voice was changed--was
still more broken--"Go; it may be she needs something. Go."

"Is this our last farewell? Surely we shall meet again."

"Go. And--and--tell her--her father--nay. Tell her nothing. Go."

O'ermastered by his words, by, I think, too, the misery of the man who
had been my companion through the dreary night, my heart wrung with
sorrow for him who stood there so sad a figure, I went, obeying his
behest.

But ere I did so, and before I opened the door that gave on the stairs
leading to her room, I took his hand, and whispered:

"It _is_ our last farewell! Yet--oh, pause and think--she is your
child. Have you no word--no last word of love nor plea for pardon--to
send?"

For a moment his his quivered, his breast heaved and he turned toward
the other, and outer, door, so that I thought he meant to go without
another sign. But, some impulse stirring in his heart, he moved back
again to where I stood; murmuring, I heard him say:

"In all the world she has none other but you. Remember that. Farewell
forever. And--in days to come--teach her not to hate--my memory.
Farewell."

Then, his hand on the latch of the outer door, he pointed to the other
and the stairs beyond.

While I, stealing up them, knew that neither his child nor I would
ever see him more, and, so knowing, prayed that God would at last
bring ease and comfort to the erring man.

As I neared the door of the room in which she had slept she opened it
and came forth upon the bare landing--pale, as I saw in the light of
the now fully broken day, but with much of the fever gone; also with,
upon her face, that smile which ever made summer in my heart.

"You are better," I said, folding her to me, "better? Have slept well?
Is it not so?" Yet, even as I spoke, I led her back to the room whence
she had come. She must not descend _yet!_ "You have not stirred all
through the night, I know."

"I dreamt," she said, "that you came to me, bade me farewell forever.
Yet that passed, and again I dreamed that we should never part more.
Therefore, I was happy, even in my sleep." Then broke off to say:
"Hark! They are stirring in the house. Are the horses being prepared?
I hear one shaking its bridle. Can any go forth to-day?" and she moved
toward the window.

"Nay, Juana," I said, leading her back again, although imperceptibly,
to the middle of the room, "do not go to the window. The cold is
intense--stay here by my side."

Not guessing my reason--since it was impossible she should understand
what was happening below!--I led her back. Led her back so that she
should not see one come forth from the stable whom she deemed dead and
destroyed--so that she should not be blasted by the sight of her
father passing away in actual life from her forever; then sat down by
her side and led the conversation to our future--to how we should get
away from here to England and to safety. Also, I told her not to
bewail, as she did again and again, my failure to proceed further on
my journey to Flanders and the army; demonstrated, to her that, at
least, there had been no failure in the mission I had undertaken;
that my secret service had been carried out--and well carried out,
too--and, consequently, my return mattered not very much with regard
to a week or month. The allies, I said, could fight and win their
battles very well without my aid, as I doubted not they were doing by
now, while--for the rest--had I not done my share both here and in
Spain? Proved, too--speaking a little self-vauntingly, perhaps, by
reason of my intense desire to soothe and cheer her and testify that
she had been no barrier in my path to glory--that I, also, though far
away from my comrades, had stood in the shadow of death, had been face
to face with the grim monster equally with those who braved the
bayonets, the muskets and the cannon of Louis' armies.

But all the time I spoke to her my apprehension was very great, my
nerves strung to their bitterest endurance, my fear terrible that she
would hear the man below going forth, that she might move to the
window and see him--and that, thus seeing, be crushed by the sight.

For I knew that he was moving now--that he was passing away forever
from this gloomy spot which held the one thing in all the world that
was his, and linked him to the wife he had loved so dearly; knew that,
solitary and alone, he was about to set forth into a dreary world
which held no home for him nor creature to love him in his old age. I,
too, heard the bridle jangling again; upon the rough boards of the
stable beneath the windows of the _fonda_ I heard the dead, dull thump
of a horse's hoofs; I knew that the animal was moving--that he was
setting out upon his journey of darkness and despair.

"You are sad, Mervan," she said, her cheek against mine, while her
voice murmured in my ear. "Your words are brave, yet all else belies
them."

"It is not for myself," I answered. "Not for myself."

The starry eyes gazed into mine, the long, slim hand rested on my
shoulder.

"For whom?" she whispered. "For whom? For him? My father?"

I bowed my head--from my lips no words seemed able to come--yet said
at last:

"For him. Your father." Then, for a moment, we sat there together,
saying nothing. But soon she spake again.

"My thoughts of him are those of pity only, now," she murmured
once more. "Pity, deep as a woman's heart can feel. And--and--my
love--remember, I never knew who my father was until that scene in the
inn at Lugo--thought always his, our name was in truth Belmonte. The
secret was well kept--by Eaton, for his own ends, doubtless; by my
father's friend, the priest who had once been as he was, for his past
friendship's sake. If I judged him harshly, a life of pity for his
memory shall make atonement."

As she said these words, while I kissed and tried to comfort her, she
rose from where we were sitting and went to the window, I not
endeavouring to prevent her now, feeling sure that he was gone; for
all had become very still; there was no longer any sound in the
stable, nor upon the snow, which, as I had seen as the day broke, had
frozen and lay hard as iron on the ground beneath it.

Yet something there was, I knew, that fascinated her as she gazed out
upon the open; something which--as she turned round her face to me--I
saw had startled, terrified her. For, pale as she had been since we
had met again here, and with all the rich colouring that I loved so
much gone from her cheeks, she was even whiter, paler than I had ever
known her--in her eyes, too, a stare of astonishment, terror.

"Mervan!" she panted, catching her breath, her hand upon her heart,
"Mervan, look, oh, look!" and she pointed through the window.

"See," she gasped, "see. The form of one whom I deemed dead--or is he
in truth dead, and that his spectre vanishing into the dark wood
beyond? See, the black horse, that which he bestrode that night--oh!
Mervan--Mervan--Mervan--why has his spirit returned to earth? Will it
haunt me forever--forever--punish me because of my shame of him?"

And while I saw the horseman's figure disappear now--and forever--into
the darkness of the pine forest, she lay trembling and weeping in my
arms. To calm which, and also bring ease to her troubled heart, I told
her all.



CHAPTER XXXI.

ALWAYS TOGETHER NOW.


The frost held beneath a piercing east wind which blew across the
mountains that separated Portugal from Leon, so that now the snow was
as hard as any road and there was no longer any reason to delay our
setting forth. And more especially so was this the case because my
beloved appeared to have entirely recovered from the fever into which
she had been thrown by the events of the past weeks.

"I am ready, Mervan," she said to me the next day, "ready to depart,
to leave forever behind these lands--which I hope never to see
again--to dwell always in your own country and near you."

Wherefore I considered in my mind what was best now to be done.

That we were safe here in Portugal we knew very well--only it was not
in Portugal that we desired to remain, but rather to escape from; to
cross the seas as soon as might be--to reach England or Holland. Yet
how to do that we had now to consider.

I had said we were safe here, and of this safety we had sure proof not
many hours after her unhappy father had departed on his unknown
journey; a journey that led I knew not where, no more than I knew what
would be the end of it. And this proof was that, in the afternoon of
the same day, the landlord of the inn came running in to us as fast as
he could scamper across the already frozen snow; his face twitching
with excitement, his voice shaking, too, from the same cause.

"Holy Virgin!" he exclaimed, while he gesticulated like a madman, his
wife doing the same thing by his side, "who and what have I sheltered
here in my house. Pirates and filibusters, gaol breakers and
murderers, women whose vows are made and broken day by day. 'Tis mercy
we are not all stabbed to the death in our beds," and again he
grimaced and shook and spluttered.

"You are as like," I said sternly, with a tap to my sword hilt, "to be
stabbed to the death now, and at once, if you explain not this
intrusion and your words, fellow." For he had roused my ire by
bursting in on Juana and me in the manner he had done, and by
frightening her, as I knew by the way she clung to me. "Answer at
once, what mean you?"

"There are at the frontier," he said, speaking now more calmly, also
more respectfully as he noted my attitude, while his wife ceased her
clamour too, "some half dozen Spaniards from Lugo, all demanding where
you are--and--and the wo--the lady; also asking for one they call
their Alcáide, as well as another, who, they say, is a hundred-fold
assassin. Likewise they vow they will have you back to Lugo."

"Will they! Well, we will see for that! Meanwhile, what say the
frontiermen on this side, here in Portugal?"

"They dispute. They refuse. They say 'tis whispered o'er all our land
that the king has joined with the English brigands----"

"Fellow! remember." And again I threatened him.

"With the English nation against Spain and France. It may be so or
not; I do not know. Yet I think you will be spared to--to--slay----"

Again he halted in his speech, reading danger in my glance, while I,
turning to Juana, bade her keep calm and await my return from the
border, to which I meant to proceed to see what was a-happening.

At first she would not hear of my doing this; she threw herself upon
my neck, she besought me by our newborn love, by all our hopes of
happiness in days to come, not to go near those men, Reminded me, too,
that even now we were free to escape, to seize upon the horses, push
on further into Portugal and to safety. Also she pleaded with me to
remember that if aught happened to me, if I was taken again and
carried back to Spain, all hope would indeed be gone, no more escape
possible. Wept, also, most piteously, and besought me to recollect
that if aught such as this befell she would indeed be alone in the
world, and must die.

Yet I was firm; forced myself to be so. In my turn, bade her remember
that I was a soldier, that soldiers could not skulk and run away when
there was naught to fear.

"For," I said, whispering also many other words of love and comfort in
her ear, "it may be true that the king has joined with us. For months
it has been looked for, expected. And if 'tis not even so, these
people hate Spain and all in it with a deep hatred. They cannot harm
us, certainly no half dozen can. 'Twould take more than that. Let me
go, sweetheart."

And gently I disengaged her arms from my neck and went away amidst her
prayers and supplications for my safety; amidst also the mutterings of
the landlord to the effect that the _Inglés_ seemed to fear neither
devil nor man.

'Twas not many moments to the border 'twixt the two countries, and I
soon was there--seeing, however, as I hurried toward it, to the
priming of my pistols, and that my sword was loose enough in its
scabbard for easy drawing forth--and there I perceived that a harangue
was going on between the Spanish and Portuguese frontiermen, while, on
the side of the former, were also the half-dozen Spaniards, of whom
the inn keeper had spoken. And amongst them I recognised two or three
of those who had captured us in the inn garden at Lugo.

"Ha!" one of them called out as I approached. "Ha! See, there is one,
the second of the brigands, though not the worst. _Assassinator!_" he
shrieked at me, "we must have you back at Lugo."

"Best take me, then," I replied, as I drew close up, "yet 'twill cost
you dear," and as I spoke I whipped my sword from out its scabbard.

There was to be neither fight nor attempt to capture me, however; in
truth, as you have now to see, my weapon had done its last work in
either Spain or Portugal, since the men on this side meant not that
the Spaniards should have their way.

"Back, I tell you," shouted the Portuguese chief, "or advance at your
peril. We are at war; 'tis known over all our land the _Inglés_ are
our allies. You have come on a bootless errand."

Now this, as I learnt later, was not the case in absolute fact, since
Portugal joined not with us till the next spring had come, yet it
served very well for my purpose; for these Spaniards did doubtless
think that they would have got me--and, I suppose, Juana,
too--bloodlessly, and have been able to hale us back to Lugo and its
accursed _braséro_. But now they found out their mistake; they would
have to fight to get me, and as, I think, they feared my sword as much
as the four or five others of my new-found Portuguese friends, they
very wisely desisted from any attempt. And so, after many angry words
exchanged on both sides, in which I took no part, I went back to the
inn, feeling sure that, unless I ever ventured into Spain again, I was
free of its clutches.

                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Once more, a few hours later, my love and I were on the road as
travelling companions, only now we were lovers instead of friends, and
the companionship was, by God's mercy, to be for the length of our
lives. And sweet it was to me, beyond all doubt, to have her by my
side, to hear her soft voice in my ears, and to listen to the words of
love that fell from her lips--sweet, too, to me to make reply to them.

For one thing also I was devoutly grateful, namely, that I had not
hesitated to tell her that her father still lived; that he had yet, by
heaven's grace, many years before him in which to expiate his past;
that he had escaped the awful end to which he had been doomed, and
which, during some few hours, she imagined he had suffered--devoutly
grateful that I had done this, because, now, the sorrow which she felt
for the erring man was chastened by the knowledge that it was not too
late for him to repent and obtain pardon, and that his death, whatever
it might be, could scarce be one of such horror as that from which he
had escaped.

After some consideration I had decided that 'twould be best we should
make our way to Oporto, where I thought 'twas very like we might find
some ship for either England or Holland--perhaps, also, since the
trade of that town with England is of such extreme importance, some
vessel of war acting as convoy for the merchants. Moreover, the
distance was not great in so small a land as this, and by the chart I
carried seemed not to be more than thirty or forty leagues, though to
compass them we should have to pass over mountains more than once. Yet
the horses were fresh--I rode now my own on which Gramont had come and
had then exchanged for the black one on which I had escaped, it having
been prepared for me ere I took his place--the snow was hard as iron;
it was not much to do. And, much or little, it had to be done.

And so we progressed, passing through Mirandella and Murca, striking
at last a broad high road that ran straight for Oporto--scaling
mountains sometimes, plunging sometimes into deep valleys and crossing
streams over shaking wooden bridges that by their appearance seemed
scarce strong enough to bear a child, yet over which we got in safety.
And, though neither she nor I spoke our thoughts, I think, I know,
that the same idea was ever present to her mind as to mine, the idea
that we might ere long come upon some sign of her father. For, now and
again, as she peered down upon the white track we followed, losing
more than once the road, yet finding it again ere long, she would rein
in the jennet and look at the tracks frozen in the snow, then shake
her head mournfully as we went on once more.

But of Gramont we saw no sign--nor ever saw him again in this world.



Going on and on, however, we drew near as I judged, to the coast,
still climbing the mountains and still passing at other times through
the valleys, over all of which there lay the vast white pall burying
everything beneath it.

We heard also the great river that is called the Douro, rolling and
humming and swirling beneath the roof of frozen snow which, in some
places, stretched across it from bank to bank. In some places, too,
where the road we traversed approached nearer to the stream, we saw it
cleaving its way through banks so narrowed by their coating of ice
that it o'erleapt and foamed above the sides, while with a great
swish, such as a huge tide makes upon a shingly beach, its waters
spread out with a hissing splash from their eddies and swept over the
borders on either side. Yet, because the way this river rushed was
likewise our way to peace and happiness--the road toward the great sea
we hoped so soon to traverse--we regarded it with interest.

"See," I said to Juana, as now we rode close to it, so that at this
time our horses' feet were laved by its overflow, "see how it bears
down with it great trees from far inland, from where we have come;
also other things, the wooden roof of some peasant's hut, some
household goods too. I fear it has swept over the country, has burst
in places from its narrow frost-bound sides."

'Twas true--such must have happened--for even as I spoke, there went
by the body of a horse--the creature's sides all torn and lacerated,
doubtless by some narrow passage in which the spears of ice would be
as sharp as swords' points; then, next--oh! piteous sight!--a little
dead babe rolled over and over as the waves bore it along in their
swift flight.

"Look, look," she murmured, pointing forward to where the river
broadened, but out into the breadth of which there projected a spur,
or tongue of land; "look! that catches much of what comes down--see!
the dead horse's progress is stopped upon it--and Mervan, the little
babe is also rolled on to that slip of land while there are many other
things besides; more bodies of both men and animals."

There were, in solemn truth. As we rode nearer to that jutting
promontory, we saw that much of what the Douro had brought down was
stopped by it; upon the frozen tongue of land protruding were mixed in
confusion many things. The dead horse and another which had preceded
it; some poor sheep, a dog, the little babe which had just passed
before our eyes, and two or three dead men; some on their backs, their
arms extended on that frozen refuge--one on his face.

Mostly they were peasants; their garb told that, also their rough,
coarse hands, which showed black against the leper whiteness of the
ice and snow beneath them. But he who lay upon his face was none such,
his scarlet coat, guarded with galloon, had never graced a peasant's
back, no more than any peasant had worn that sword (with now both
blade and scabbard broken) that was by his side.

And halting upon the little ridge which made the summit of that
promontory and gazing upon that man, I knew as well as if I could see
his down-turned face, whose body it was stretched out there upon its
icy bier.

Also I saw that she knew, too. Neither scarlet coat nor battered
weapon was strange to her.

"I will descend," I said, speaking in a low voice, such as those
assume who stand in presence of the dead. "I will descend and make
sure," whereupon she bowed her head in reply, making no demur. At that
moment she, perhaps, thought it best to make sure that he who had
sought her soul's degradation would never traffic with another woman's
honour.

But as I went down on foot now to that tongue of land on which the
drowned reposed, I had another reason besides this of making sure that
the body was that of her tempter, the Alcáide. I desired to discover
if 'twas by the river alone that he had come to his death (borne down
and into it by some streamlet nearer the Spanish border), and not by
the avenging weapon of him who said that I should never have spared
him, have never let him quit my side with life. For they might have
met, I knew; the one who went first might have been belated on his
road--snowbound; the second might have overtaken him, his vengeance
have been swift and sure.

Stepping across the bodies of the drowned animals, avoiding those of
the peasants, and putting gently aside that of the little babe, I
reached him, recognising as I did so the coal black hair flecked and
streaked with grey, the rings upon the hands stretched out, backs
upward. Then I turned him over, seeing that the face was torn and cut
by the jagged ice through which he had been hurried, also bruised and
discoloured. But in all the body no sign of rapier wound, nor pistol
shot, nor of avenging finger marks upon the throat.

So I went back to her and took my reins from her hands and once more
we set out upon our way.

But the dark, lustrous eyes as they gazed into mine asked silent and
unworded questions--so that I guessed my thoughts had been in her
mind, too!--and when I answered with as equal a silence I knew that I
had brought comfort to her heart.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE END.


The early part of September, 1704, had been stormy and wet and very
dismal, so that all in London feared that the great spectacle, which
had been arranged with much pains and forethought for the seventh of
that month, must be impaired if not totally ruined by the inclemency
of the weather. And many there were who, during the night that passed
away and when the dawn came, rose from their beds to peer out and see
what the day promised.

Yet by great good fortune none were doomed to disappointment. For from
away over the river, down by where the great ships were all a-lying
dressed with flags, the sun came up in great magnificence and
splendour; the clouds turned from purple to a fair pure daffodil; a
sweeter autumn morning none had ever seen nor could hope to see.

And now from very early in the morning the crowd came in from far and
wide, from north and south and east and west, from the villages along
the river as far away as sylvan Richmond on one side, or Hampstead on
another; while the gentry drove in from their country seats at Clapham
or Kensington and on the road that leads to Fulham. Also those
regiments at Hounslow, and the foot guards at Kensington, as well as
the city militia from the east side, were all making their way into
the town, with drums a-beating and flags streaming out to the fresh
morning air and trumpets braying, while in the city itself my Lord
Mayor was getting ready to proceed to Temple Bar, there to receive the
queen and court.

For this day, the seventh of September, had been fixed for the
thanksgiving for the victory of Blenheim which the Duke of Marlborough
had recently won. The pity only being that, of those who were to take
part in the great ceremony, my Lord Duke could not be there, he being
still engaged on the Continent.

Nevertheless, from St. James' there set out so great a company for St.
Paul's that 'tis never likely any one then alive could expect to
witness a more noble and imposing sight. For there were all the great
officers of state, with, amidst them, the queen in a sumptuous coach
drawn by eight horses, Her Majesty being ablaze with jewels. Alone she
went in that coach excepting one companion, a lady dressed as quietly
and simply as could be any lady in the land, there being neither at
neck or bosom or throat, or in her hair, any single trinket to be
seen.

Yet, I think, she was that day the proudest woman in all England, not
even excepting great Anna, since she was the wife of the conqueror who
had trampled Louis and his armies under foot; was Sarah, Duchess of
Marlborough. Could any female heart have desired to be more!

In front of, as well as behind, and on either side of that chariot of
state, there rode the Queen's Guards; yet ahead of those who rode
behind--he being nearest to the back of the carriage--was one who
yielded to none in thankfulness and gratitude for all which Providence
had seen fit to do for him. An officer this, one handed, his left
arm bound up--it having been nearly lopped off at Blenheim by one of
the Elector of Bavaria's huge dragoons, whom that officer slew a
moment later with his right hand--whose scarf, sword knot,
richly laced scarlet coat and gold cockade proclaimed him a colonel
of horse--myself.

From where we entered the Strand--by the cross set up here--we saw
that all the shops were boarded up and scaffolded, partly to resist
the crowd and partly to furnish benches on which sight-seers might
sit. On those benches, also in the shop windows, on the bulks and at
the windows of the tradesmen's parlours above, was a noble and
splendid company, the ladies of which had all adorned themselves with
their choicest dresses and ribbons and laces, the more to do honour to
those other two ladies in the great coach. Then, behind, came the
lords of Parliament and the gentlemen of the Commons, also the
Bishops in their wigs and lawn--each and all in coaches drawn by
six horses--as well as many others of the nobility; while from the
churches along the route, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, St. Mary's in
the Strand and St. Clement's Danes, the bells clashed and clanged,
and, inside, the organs blew and anthems pealed.

At Temple Bar there was a great halt, since the gates were shut, yet
opened as the queen came to them, whereon my Lord Mayor, surrounded by
the aldermen and sheriffs, in their red robes and on horses richly
caparisoned, received Her Majesty, the former handing to her the sword
of the city, which she at once returned; after which we progressed
once more toward St. Paul's, where, later, the dean preached a moving
sermon.

And now my eyes were fixed and searching for a face--two faces--at a
window beyond the Church of St. Dunstan's in Fleet street--which was
all hung with banners and adornments stretched across from side to
side--and presently I saw that which I sought for--a lady on a balcony
holding up a little wee child in her arms, a lady dark and beautiful
and dressed all in her best, her robe a rich brocade, with, at her
breast, a knot of ribbons, the colours of the Fourth Horse--the woman
who has ever been in my eyes the fairest, most lovely of her sex, my
loved and honoured wife. And she stood there seeking for me, leaning
over the balcony to wave and kiss her hand, took, also, our babe's
little one in her arms and caused it to wave, too.

Riding by, I looked up and saw them, and blessed God--blessed God and
praised His name, because He had seen fit to bring us safe through all
the dangers we had encountered together, because He had seen fit to
give to me for wife the sweetest woman the world held, and to bring us
safe into haven at last.

For that, as well as all else, I blessed and praised His name, even as
from roofs of houses and taverns the salvos roared forth, the bells
pealed from the steeples, and we progressed through the city;
companies ranged 'neath their banners, and, between the lines kept by
the militia, the queen bowing from her side of the coach, the great,
stately duchess from hers, the people shouting all the time, and
crying but two names, "Anne" and "Marlborough," and women holding up
their children, so that, in the days to come, when those children were
old, they might say they had gazed on the wife of the greatest soldier
in the world. And thus, at last, we came to St. Paul's and gave
thanksgiving.

It was when night had fallen after Blenheim that my Lord Duke sent for
me to his room in the inn, where he and the Marshal Tallard--who had
led the French, and been defeated that day, and was now an honoured
and well-cared-for prisoner of his Grace--were quartered, and spoke to
me as follows:

"Colonel Crespin--for such you will be when the next gazette is
published--if it were not that others have a prior claim, it should be
you to whom I would confide my message to the queen and lords. For,"
and he smiled sweetly, as usual, though, to-night, a little wearily,
"I have a recollection of your value as a bearer of despatches; yet,
all the same, you shall go to England. You have a wife and child
there, I know."

And again he smiled as I bowed before him.

"For which you have to thank me. By St. George, I never thought when I
sent you on that journey you were going sweetheart hunting, too."

Whereby you will perceive that his Grace knew very well all that had
befallen me two years before, when I set out for Spain to find, if
might be, the English fleet. It would be strange, indeed, if he had
not known it, for my story had been told all over the forces from the
moment I returned and joined my regiment; nay, more than once, I had
told it to Marlborough himself.

"I shall not be far behind you," he continued, "the New Year should
see me home, too. Yet I have messages for the queen and my own wife.
You shall bear them. It will give you an opportunity of seeing your
own wife. She is, I hear, vastly beautiful."

"In my eyes, my lord Duke, the most beautiful woman in the world."

"That is as it should be. So," he continued simply, "I think of mine.
But, also, you must see the queen. She has heard of your adventures,
wishes she had seen you when you were on leave in England. Tell her
all--tell her as bravely in words as you can be brave in action--and
you will not stop at the command of a regiment of horse. See also
my wife; her influence is extreme--our enemies say 'tis a bad
influence--yet she will help you."

And I did see the queen on my arrival in England, also the great
duchess, Sarah, on the night before we went to St. Paul's; after which
I wondered no more how every one loved the former, spoke of her,
indeed, as the "Good" Queen--a title, I think, as dear and precious as
that of "Great," which Elizabeth had worn. She was very ruddy, I
noticed when I stood before her, her beautiful red-brown hair bound
most matronly above her brow, while her arms--which were bare, to
show, as I have heard, their extreme beauty--were most marvellous to
behold, as well as her hands. Yet, queen as she was, and a well
favoured one, too, it was more on the other lady who stood behind her
that my eyes rested; for she was beautiful beyond all I had imagined,
so that I wondered not that report said the duke loved her as fondly
as when they were boy and girl together, she only a maid of honour,
and he an ensign. Yet, also, I thought that beauty marred by an
imperious haughtiness which made her seem the queen and the real queen
seem her subject.

"So, Colonel Crespin," Her Majesty said to me, "I set eyes on you at
last--you of whom I have heard so much. Well, I am vastly proud to
know so brave a gentleman. Later, I must also know your wife--whom I
hear you wooed and won in a strange fashion." Then changing the
subject swiftly, while her kindly eyes rested on me, she said: "Your
father must be very proud of you."

Not knowing what reply to make to such a compliment, I could but bow
again, whereon she continued:

"Your arm is bound up, I see--I hear you got the wound at Blenheim.
'Tis very well. In after years it will be as great a distinction to
have had that wound as any honours or titles that may come to you. It
does not prevent your riding?"

I murmured that it inconvenienced me but very little, whereon Her
Majesty said:

"That is also well. To-morrow I desire you follow my coach to St.
Paul's. I love my people to see those who have served me bravely,"
whereon, with a gracious inclination of her head, accompanied by a
sweet smile upon her honest, kindly face, she turned and left the
apartment, the duchess bowing too, though somewhat more haughtily than
the queen had done. Yet she whispered a word in my ear as she passed
out; a word appropriate enough to one as proud as she.

"You have served _him_ well," she said. "Those who do that are my
friends forever."

And now the rejoicings for our victory at Blenheim were over--the
siege and taking of Gibraltar three weeks before, by my other friend,
Sir George Rooke, being not forgotten--the crowds had dispersed, the
great banquet to be given by the city was near at hand and the
illuminations of London were beginning.

Yet I had no desire to be feasting in the midst of that great
company--instead, I was seated in the room from the balcony of which I
had seen my wife that morning; her head upon my shoulder, her lips
murmuring words of love inexpressible in my ear; words in which,
amongst the rest, I caught those that told me how proud she was to
have won me from all other women, how proud and happy in knowing that
we were each other's forever in this world.

                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

What need to set down more--what more have I to say?

Only this. That never would she hear of redeeming any of that second
fortune which her unhappy father had left in the custody of the priest
in the Indies who had once been as he himself was; and consequently,
that from the time we became man and wife no further intercourse was
ever held between us and those far-off islands from which she came.
Nor was that fortune wanted--God has ever been good to us; I have
prospered exceedingly in my soldier's calling; all is very well.

Of him, Gramont, we have never heard more. Yet that, somewhere, he is,
if still alive, expiating his past I have never doubted. The truth was
in the man's eyes as he spoke to me on that morning when he went forth
broken-hearted from the house which held his child; the truth, and a
firm determination to atone by suffering and hardship for all that he
had done. And what stronger or more stern resolve could any sinner
have taken than that of his? The determination to tear himself away
forever from the companionship of his newly found daughter, and to
remove thereby from her forever the shame of his presence.

"Come, Mervan," she said to me, as now the autumn evening turned to
night, and from every house in Fleet street the illuminations began to
glisten. "Come, you must prepare for the city banquet."

"Nay," I said, "nay. I need no banquets, would prefer to stay here by
your side."

"And so I would you should do. Yet you must go. I will not have you
absent from so great a thing. You! my hero--my king. And while you are
gone I will watch over our child, or solace myself with this."

And as she spoke she went over to where the spinet was, and touched a
smaller instrument that lay upon it--the little viol d'amore from
which we have never parted, and never will.



THE END.



PRINTED BY STROMBERG, ALLEN & CO.
FOR
HERBERT S. STONE & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS
CHICAGO
1897





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