"O Martin" says she, "what a glory of sun and sea and sky and the wind so sweet! Indeed it seems as nature would make us amends for the cruel storm, for the poor trees have suffered greatly."
"Aye, comrade," quoth I, "so is there much fruit for us to gather ere it rot, and great store of palm-nuts, which are good food and useful in a thousand ways."
"But nature is very cruel, Martin, for I have seen many birds lying dead and over yonder a poor goat crushed by a tree."
"Why then," says I, "these will we eat also, at least, such as we may."
"Nay, Martin, your mind runneth overmuch on food, methinks."
"Mayhap!" says I. "Howbeit here are fish to our breakfast." Hereupon she falls on her knees to behold my catch and very full of wonder.
"Indeed," says she, "meseemeth we have strayed into Paradise, for even the fish are beautiful. Why stare you so, Martin? Is it so wonderful I joy in life and find it sweet in so fair a world and on such a day? Moreover I have been swimming—"
"How?" says I, "and the sea so rough!"
"I have found me a little bay where the waters run smooth and deep. But come, let us breakfast, for to-day, Martin, to-day we will explore our island."
"Why, I had thought to try my saw to-day," says I, "I had intended to begin a chair for you."
"Nay, let this rest awhile; Martin, to-day I yearn to adventure the unknown, who can say what marvels and wonders lie waiting us?"
"As you will!" says I, rising, and so away to the plateau. Now very soon I had the fire a-going and while she bustled to and fro preparing breakfast and singing very sweet and blithe to hear, I took the pistol, and having cleaned and oiled it, found it very well; then I loaded it with one of my six bullets, using a strip from my ragged shirtsleeve for wads. This done I laid it by and, going for Adam's journal, I cut therefrom the map of the island and fell to studying it with a view to our forthcoming journey. The which map I give herewith:
(Map of the island.)
Hearing my companion call me I went out to find breakfast ready, the fish broiled and very appetising. While we ate I showed her Adam's map and she greatly pleased therewith and anxious to know how I came by it, all of which I told her. And she, examining this plan, grows but the more eager to be gone on this expedition.
"But, Martin," says she all at once as she studied the map, "Master Penfeather would seem to have been forced to slay a great number of poor men, here be—one—two—three—O many men all dead by his hand—and each marked with a little cross."
"Aye," I nodded, "and each and every 'slain of necessity'" ...
"Which meaneth—what, Martin?"
"Murder, like as not, though 'tis all cunningly glozed in his journal."
"I would fain see this journal, Martin."
"Why, so you shall and judge thereby whether he be rogue or no, for 'tis beyond me."
"But now," says she rising, "let us make ready for our journey, though 'twill be no great matter, for according to this plan the island is no more than seven miles long and some five miles wide."
"Even so," quoth I, "'twill be ill travelling by reason of woods and tangled thickets, swamps and the like, so I judge 'twill take the whole day."
"Why then," says she, leaping up, "the sooner we start the better, Martin."
Hereupon, finding her so set on it I proceeded to equip myself for the journey; in my belt I thrust my trusty knife and the hatchet, these balanced by the pistol, and over my shoulder I slung my bow and quiver of arrows and chose me a good stout sapling for staff. Soon cometh my companion, her slender middle girt by a goatskin girdle whereto she had hung our other sheath-knife and my wallet; so we set out together side by side. Reaching the little valley, we turned off to the right, or westerly, according to Adam's map, following the stream that rippled amid great boulders or flowed 'twixt banks adorned with many-hued flowers most rare to be seen. And here were bushes of all kinds and trees a-plenty untouched by the gale, for the little valley, being well secluded, it fortuned the wind had passed over it. Up rose the sun waxing ever hotter, so that, reaching a grove of trees, I would have my companion rest awhile in this right pleasant shade the whiles I, with certain great leaves, contrived a covering for her head and another for my own; which done, we fared on again and she very merry by reason of the strange figures we cut. Thus we presently came out of the valley into a pleasant champain—a rolling grassy upland with dim woods beyond, even as Adam had set forth in his map. Wherefore, guided by this map, we struck off north and so in a while came again to the river and heard the roar of the waterfall away to our left; and turning thither (I being minded to show her this wonder) we saw before us a high land, well girt by bush and fern and flowering shrubs, up which we scrambled forthwith, the roar of the fall waxing louder as we climbed. Reaching the summit we saw it had once been covered by noble trees, some few of which the storm had left standing yet, but for the most part they lay wind-tossed in wild and tangled confusion.
"O Martin!" says my companion, "O Martin!" and so stood awed by the destruction wrought by this mighty and pitiless tempest. Here was ill-going, but by dint of labour with my hatchet I forced us a way through the wreckage until we suddenly came where we might behold the fall that leapt from the adjacent rocks, all rainbow-hued, to plunge into those deep and troubled waters below.
And now instead of bursting forth into cries of delighted wonder, as I had expected, my companion stood mute and still, her hands tight-clasped, viewing now the splendour of these falling waters, now the foam-sprent deeps below, like one quite dumbfounded. At last:
"O Martin," says she in my ear, for the noise of the fall was very loud, "here is wonder on wonder!"
"As how, comrade?"
"This great body of water for all its weight yet disturbeth yonder black depths very little—and how should this chance except this dark lake be immeasurably deep?"
"Aye, true!" says I. "Here belike was a volcano once and this the crater."
Hard by, a great rock jutted out above the lake, that same barren rock wherein I had sat the day I discovered this cataract; now as I viewed this rock I was struck by its grotesque shape and then, all at once, I saw it was hatefully like to a shrivelled head—there were the fleshless jaws, the shrunken nose and great, hollow eye-socket. And now even as I stared at the thing my companion spied it also, for I felt her hand on my arm and saw her stand to view it wide-eyed. So we, speaking no word, stared upon this shape, and ever as we stared the nameless evil of it seemed to grow, insomuch that we turned with one accord and hasted away.
"Yonder was an ill sight, Martin."
"Indeed!" says I. "'Twas like the face of one long dead! And yet 'tis no more than a volcanic rock! Nature playeth strange tricks sometimes, and here was one vastly strange and most unlovely!" After this we went on side by side and never a word betwixt us until we had reached that pleasant champain country where flowed the river shaded by goodly trees, in whose branches fluttered birds of a plumage marvellously coloured and diverse, and beneath which bloomed flowers as vivid; insomuch that my lady brake forth ever and anon into little soft cries of delighted wonder. And yet despite all these marvels it was long ere we shook off the evil of that ghastly rock.
Presently as we journeyed came a wind sweet and fresh from the sea, offsetting the sun's immoderate heat to our great comfort, so that, though ofttimes our way was toilsome, our spirits rose notwithstanding, and we laughed and talked unfeignedly as only good comrades may.
By noon we had reached a place of rocks where, according to Adam's map should be a ford, though hereabouts the stream, swollen by the late rains, ran deep. Howbeit we presently came upon the ford sure enough and, having crossed it, my lady must needs fall to admiring at her new shoes again, finding them water-fast.
"And they so comfortable and easy to go in, Martin!"
"Why, you have footed it bravely thus far!" says I, "But—"
"But?" says she, "And what then? You shall find me no laggard these days, Martin. Indeed I could run fast as you for all your long legs, sir."
So she challenges me to race her forthwith, whereupon (and despite the sun) we started off side by side and she so fleet that I might scarce keep pace with her; thus we ran until at last we stopped all flushed and breathless and laughing for the pure joy of it.
Presently in our going we came on a little dell, very shady and pleasantly secluded, where flowers bloomed and great clusters of wild grapes hung ripe for the plucking; and mighty pleasant methought it to behold my companion's pleased wonderment. Here we sat to rest and found these grapes very sweet and refreshing.
Much might I tell of the marvels of this island, of fruit and bird and beast, of the great butterflies that wheeled and hovered resplendent, and of the many and divers wonders that beset us at every turn; but lest my narrative grow to immoderate length (of the which I do already begin to entertain some doubt) I will pass these with this mere mention and hurry on to say that we tramped blithely on until, the sun declining westwards, warned us to be turning back; but close before us rose that high hill whose summit towered above the island, and my companion mighty determined that she must climb it.
"For, Martin," says she, scornful of all weariness, "once up there we may behold all our domain spread out before us!"
So having skirted the woods and avoided tangled thickets as well as we might, we began the ascent, which we found to be no great matter after all. And now I bethought me how Adam had sped hotfoot up hereabouts on a time and with Tressady's glittering hook ringing loud on the rocks behind him. More than once as we climbed we came on flocks of goats that scampered off at sight of us; here, too, I remarked divers great birds and determined to try a shot at one if chance should offer. As to my companion, I had all I could do to keep up with her until, flushed and breathless, she turned to view me all radiant-eyed where we stood panting upon the summit. And now beholding the prospect below, she uttered a soft, inarticulate cry, and sinking down upon the sward, pushed the damp curls from her brow the better to survey the scene outstretched before us.
A rolling, wooded country of broad savannahs, of stately groves and mazy boskages, of dim woods and flashing streams; a blended harmony of greens be-splashed, here and there, with blossoming thickets or flowering trees, the whole shut in by towering, tree-girt cliffs and bounded by a limitless ocean, blue as any sapphire.
Viewing the island from this eminence I could see that Adam's map was true in all essentials as to shape and general trend of the country, and sitting beside my lady I fell to viewing the island more narrowly, especially this eminent place; and looking about me I called to mind how Adam (according to his story) had waged desperate fight with Tressady hereabouts—indeed I thought to recognise the very spot itself, viz., a narrow ledge of rock with, far below, a sea that ran deeply blue to break in foam against the base of these precipitous cliffs. Away over hill and dale I saw that greeny cliff with its silver thread of falling water that marked our refuge, and beyond this again, on my right hand, the white spume of the breakers on the reef. And beholding the beauties thus spread out before my eyes, and knowing myself undisputed lord of it all, there grew within me a sense of joy unknown hitherto.
At last, moved by a sudden thought, I turned from the beauties of this our island to study the beauty of her who sat beside me; the proud carriage of her shapely head 'neath its silky masses of hair, the level brows, the calm, deep serenity of her blue eyes, the delicate nose, full red lips and dimpled chin, the soft round column of her throat, deep bosom and slender waist—thus sat I staring upon her loveliness heedless of all else until she stirred uneasily, as if conscious of my regard, and looked at me. Then I saw that her eyes were serene no longer, whiles all at once throat and cheeks and brow were suffused with slow and painful colour, yet even as I gazed on her she met my look unflinching.
"What is it, Martin?" she questioned, a little breathless still.
"Suppose," says I slowly, "suppose we are never taken hence—suppose we are destined to end our days here?"
"Surely this is—an ill thought, Martin?"
"Indeed and is it, my lady? Can the world offer a home more fair?"
"Surely not, Martin."
"Then wherein lieth the ill—Damaris? Is it that you do yearn so mightily for England?"
"There lieth my home, Martin!"
"Is home then so dear to you?" Here, finding no answer, she grew troubled. "Or is it," says I, bending my staff across my knee and beginning to frown, "or is it that there waits some man yonder that you love?"
"No, Martin, have I not told you—"
"Why then," says I, "is it that you grow a-weary of my unlovely ways and would be quit of me?"
"No, Martin—only—only—" Here she fell silent and I saw her flush again.
"Or is it that you fear I might grow to love you—in time?"
"To—love me!" says she, very softly, and now I saw her red lips dimple to a smile as she stooped to cull a flower blooming hard by. "Nay!" says she lightly, "Here were a wonder beyond thought, Martin!"
"And wherefore should this be so great wonder?" I demanded.
"Because I am Joan Brandon and you are a man vowed and sworn to vengeance, Martin."
"Vengeance?" says I and, with the word, the staff snapped in my hands.
"Is it not so, Martin?" she questioned, wistfully. "Given freedom from this island would you not go seeking your enemy's life? Dream you not of vengeance still?"
"Aye, true," says I, "true! How should it be otherwise? Come, let us begone!" And casting away my broken staff, I got to my feet. But she, sitting there, lifted her head to view me with look mighty strange.
"Poor Martin!" says she softly. "Poor Martin!"
Then she arose, albeit slow and wearily, and we went down the hill together. Now as we went thus, I in black humour (and never a word) I espied one of those great birds I have mentioned within easy range, and whipping off my bow I strung it, and setting arrow on cord let fly and brought down my quarry (as luck would have it) and running forward had very soon despatched it.
"Why must you kill the poor thing, Martin?"
"Supper waiteth us at home."
"Home?" says I.
"The cave, Martin."
"We shall not reach there this night. 'Twill be dark in another hour and there is no moon, so needs must we bide here."
"As you will, Martin."
Hard beside the river that wound a devious course through the green was a little grove, and sitting here I fell to plucking the bird.
"Shall I not do that, Martin?"
"I can do it well enough."
"As you wish, Martin."
"You are weary, doubtless."
"Why, 'tis no great labour to cook supper, Martin."
"Howbeit, I'll try my hand to-night."
"Very well," says she and away she goes to collect sticks for the fire whiles I sat feathering the bird and found the flesh of it very white and delicate. But all the while my anger swelled within me for the folly I had uttered to her, in a moment of impulse, concerning love. Thus as she knelt to build the fire I spoke my thought.
"I said a vain and foolish thing to you a while since."
"Aye, Martin you did!" says she, bending over her pile of sticks. "But which do you mean?"
"I mean that folly regarding love."
"O, was that folly, Martin?" she questioned, busy laying the sticks in place.
"Arrant folly, for I could never love you—or any woman—"
"O, why not, Martin?"
"Because I have no gift for't—no leaning that way—nor ever shall—"
"Why indeed, you are no ordinary man, Martin. Shall I light the fire?"
"No, I will."
"Yes, Martin!" And down she sits with folded hands, watching me mighty solemn and demure and I very conscious of her scrutiny. Having plucked and drawn my bird, I fell to trimming it with my knife, yet all the time feeling her gaze upon me, so that what with this and my anger I pricked my thumb and cursed beneath my breath, whereupon she arose and left me.
Having thus prepared my bird for cooking I set it upon two sticks and, lighting the fire, sat down to watch it. But scarce had I done so when back comes my lady.
"Martin," says she, "should you not truss your bird first, Martin?"
"'Twill do as it is."
"Very well, Martin. But why are you so short with me?"
"I am surly by nature!" quoth I.
"Aye, true!" she nodded, "But why are you angry with me this time?"
"I ha' forgot."
"You were merry enough this noon and laughed gaily, and once you fell a-whistling—"
"The more fool I!"
"Why then, methinks I do like your folly—sometimes!" says she softly. "But now see this river, Martin, 'tis called the Serpent Water in the map, and indeed it winds and twists like any snake. But where should so much water come from, think you? Let us go look!"
"Nay, not I—here's the bird to tend—"
"Why then," says she, stamping her foot at me in sudden anger, "stay where you are until you find your temper! And may your bird burn to a cinder!" And away she goes forthwith and I staring after her like any fool until she was out of sight. So there sat I beside the fire and giving all due heed to my cooking; but in a while I fell to deep reflection and became so lost in my thoughts that, roused by a smell of burning, I started up to find my bird woefully singed.
This put me in fine rage so that I was minded to cast the carcass into the fire and have done with it; and my anger grew as the time passed and my companion came not. The sun sank rapidly, and the bird I judged well-nigh done; wherefore I began to shout and halloo, bidding her to supper. But the shadows deepening and getting no answer to my outcries, I started up, clean forgetting my cookery, and hasted off in search of my companion, calling her name now and then as I went. Following the stream I found it to narrow suddenly (and it running very furious and deep) perceiving which I began to fear lest some mischance had befallen my wilful lady. Presently as I hurried on, casting my eyes here and there in search of her, I heard, above the rush of the water, a strange and intermittent roaring, the which I could make nothing of, until, at last, forcing my way through the underbrush I saw before me a column of water that spouted up into the air from a fissure at the base of the hill, and this waterspout was about the bigness of a fair-sized tree and gushed up some twenty feet or so, now sinking to half this height, only to rise again. Scarce pausing to behold this wonder I would have hasted on (and roaring louder than the water) when I beheld her seated close by upon a rock and watching me, chin in hand.
"Why must you shout so loud?" says she reprovingly.
"I feared you lost!" says I, like any fool.
"Would it matter so much? And you so angry with me and no reason?"
"Howbeit, supper is ready!"
"I am not hungry, I thank you, sir."
"But I am!"
"Then go eat!"
"Not alone!" says I; and then very humbly, "Prithee, comrade, come to supper, indeed you should be hungry!"
"And indeed, Martin," says she, rising and giving me her hand, "I do think I am vastly hungry after all." So back we went together and, reaching the fire, found the accursed bird burned black as any coal, whereupon I stood mighty downcast and abashed the while she laughed and laughed until she needs must lean against a tree; and I, seeing her thus merry at my expense, presently laughed also. Hereupon she falls on her knees, and taking the thing from the fire sets it upon a great leaf for dish, and turns it this way and that.
"Good lack, Martin!" says she, "'Tis burned as black e'en as I wished! This cometh of your usurpation of my duties, sir! And yet methinks 'tis not utterly spoiled!" And drawing her knife she scrapes and trims it, cutting away the burned parts until there little enough remained, but that mighty delectable judging by the smell of it.
So down we sat to supper forthwith and mighty amicable, nay indeed methought her kinder than ordinary and our friendship only the stronger, which did comfort me mightily.
But our supper done we spake little, for night was come upon us very still and dark save for a glitter of stars, by whose unearthly light all things took on strange shapes, and our solitude seemed but the more profound and awesome.
Above us a purple sky be-gemmed by a myriad stars, a countless host whose distant splendour throbbed upon the night; round about us a gloom of woods and thickets that hemmed us in like a dark and sombre tide, whence stole a sweet air fraught with spicy odours; and over all a deep and brooding quietude. But little by little upon this silence crept sounds near and far, leafy rustlings, a stirring in the undergrowth, the whimper of some animal, the croak of a bird, and the faint, never-ceasing murmur of the surge.
And I, gazing thus upon this measureless immensity, felt myself humbled thereby, and with this came a knowledge of the futility of my life hitherto. And now (as often she had done, ere this) my companion voiced the thought I had no words for.
"Martin," says she, softly, "what pitiful things are we, lost thus in God's infinity."
"And doth it affright you, Damaris?"
"No, Martin, for God is all-merciful. Yet I needs must think how vain our little strivings, our hopes and fears, how small our joys and sorrows!"
"Aye, truly, truly!" quoth I.
"But," says she, leaning towards me in the firelight and with her gaze uplifted to the starry heavens, "He who made the heavens is a merciful God, 'who hath made great lights ... the moon and the stars to govern the night.' So, Martin, 'let us give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever; and in this knowledge methinks we may surely rest secure."
After this we fell silent again, I for one being very full of troublesome thought and perplexity, and the sum of it this, viz., whether a woman, cast alone on a desolate island with a man such as I, had need to fear him? To the which question answer found I none. Wherefore I got me another speculation, to wit: Whether a man and woman thus solitary must needs go a-falling in love with one another? Finding no answer to this either, I turned, half-minded to put the question to my companion, and found her fast asleep.
She lay deep-slumbering in the light of the fire, her face half-hid 'neath a tress of shining hair; and I viewing her, chin in fist, saw in her only the last of her hated race and knew in that moment that never might there be aught of true love, that pure passion, high and ennobling, the which may lift man above his baser self—never might this be 'twixt her blood and mine. And knowing this I knew also great doubt and fear of myself. And in my fear I lifted my gaze to the stars, those "great lights" set there by the hand of God; and spake thus within myself:
"Lord God," quoth I, "Since love is not nor ever shall be 'twixt this my companion and me, do Thou protect her from the devil within me, do Thou aid me to keep the oath I sware in Thy name."
But now (and my prayer scarce uttered) the Devil sprang and was upon me, and I, forgetting all my oaths and resolutions, yielded me joyously to his will; stirring in her slumbers my lady sighed, turned and, throwing her arm out it chanced that her hand came upon my knee and rested there, and I, shivering at her touch, seized this hand and caught it to my lips and began to kiss these helpless fingers and the round, soft arm above. I felt her start, heard her breath catch in a sob, but, in my madness I swept her to my embrace. Then as I stooped she held me off striving fiercely against me; all at once her struggles ceased and I heard her breath come in a long, tremulous sigh.
"Martin!" says she, "O thank God 'tis you! I dreamed these Black Bartlemy's cruel arms about me and I was sick with fear and horror—thank God 'tis you, dear Martin, and I safe from all harms soever. So hold me an you will, Martin, you that have saved me from so much and will do till the end."
"Aye, by God!" says I, bending my head above her that she might not see my face, "And so I will, faithfully, truly, until the very end!"
"Do I not know it—O do I not know it!" says she in choking voice, and here, lying beside me, she must take my hand and hold it to her soft cheek. "Indeed I do think there is no man like you in the whole world."
At this, knowing myself so unworthy, I thought no man in the world so miserable as I, as I would have told her but dared not.
"God make me worthy of your trust!" says I at last.
"'Tis a good prayer, Martin. Now hear mine, 'tis one I have prayed full oft—God make you strong enough to forgive past wrongs and, forgetting vengeance, to love your enemy."
"'Tis thing impossible!" says I.
"Yet the impossible shall come to pass soon or late, Martin, this am I sure."
"And why so sure?"
"My heart telleth me so!" says she drowsily, and looking down I saw her eyes were closed and she on the verge of slumber. And beholding her thus, my self-hate grew, insomuch that her fingers loosing their hold, I stole away my hand and, seeing her asleep, crept from the place. Being come to the stream I stood awhile staring down at the hurrying waters, minded to cast myself therein; but presently I turned aside, and coming amid leafy gloom lay there outstretched, my face hidden from the stars and I very full of bitterness, for it seemed that I was as great a rogue and well-nigh as vile as ever Bartlemy had been. And thus merciful sleep found me at last.
HOW I STOOD RESOLUTE IN MY FOLLY
The day was still young when we reached our habitation, and both of us glad to return, especially my lady.
"For truly I do grow to love this home of ours," says she, and sets herself to sweeping out her three caves. As for me I was determined on making her an arm chair forthright; to the which end I took my saw and set out for Deliverance Sands, there to cut and select such timber as I needed from my store. But scarce was I come hither than I uttered a shout of joy, for there, cast up high upon these white sands, lay a great mast in a tangle of ropes and cordage.
Drawing near, I saw this for the mainmast of some noble ship but lately wrecked, wherefore I hasted along the beach and out upon the reef to see if haply any other wreckage had come ashore, but found nothing to reward my search. Returning to the mast I saw to my joy that this cordage was all new and sound, though woefully tangled. Howbeit I had soon unravelled some fifty yards of good stout twine, and abundance of more yet to hand together with the heavier ropes such as shrouds and back-stays. Taking this line I came to that rocky cleft where I had killed the goat, and clambering up the bush-grown cliff found it to be honey-combed with caves large and small and with abundant evidences of the animals I sought. Wherefore, choosing me a narrow, well-worn track I set there a trap formed of a running noose, and this did I in divers other places, which done I returned to my labours on the mast. At the which occupation my lady, finding me, must needs fall to work beside me, aiding as well as she might like the true comrade she was.
Thus by late afternoon I had coiled and stowed safely away more good hempen rope and cordage than I could ever want. This accomplished I found time to praise my companion's diligence; but finding her all wearied out with such rough and arduous labour, grew mighty vexed with my heedlessness, reproaching myself therewith; but she (and all toilworn as she was) laughed her weariness to scorn, as was ever her way:
"Why, Martin," says she, "labour is a good thing and noble since it giveth health and strength to both mind and body. And 'tis my joy to share in your labours when I may and a delight to see how, cast here destitute of all things, you have contrived so much already. The more I work and the harder, the more able am I for work, so trouble not if I do grow a little weary sometimes!" This comforted me somewhat until, chancing to see her hands, I caught them in mine and turning them saw these tender palms all red and blistered with the ropes; and grieving over them I would have kissed the poor little things had I dared (and indeed came mighty nigh doing it) as she perceived, I think, for she flushed and laughed and drew them from my hold.
"Nay, Martin," says she softly. "I would have you forget my sex—sometimes!"
"'Twere a thing impossible!" says I, whereat she, stealing a glance at me, flushed all the hotter.
"Why then," says she, "You must not coddle and cosset me because I am a woman—"
"Never," quoth I, "'tis not my nature to do so."
"And yet you do, Martin."
"O in many ways—these blisters now, why should your hands grow rough and hard and not mine? Nature hath formed me woman but Fate hath made me your comrade, Martin. And how may I be truly your comrade except I share your toil?"
Now when I would have answered I could not, and turning from her to stare away across the limitless ocean saw it a-gleam through a mist as it were.
"Surely," says I at last, "O surely never had man so sweet and true a comrade! And I so rude and unlovely—and in all ways so unworthy."
"But you are not, Martin, you are not!"
"Aye, but I am—beyond your guessing, you that are so pure, so saintly—"
"Saintly? O Martin!" and here she laughs albeit a little tremulously. "Surely I am a very human saint, for I do grow mighty hungry and yearn for my supper. So prithee let us go and eat."
But on our way we turned aside to see if we had any fortune with my snares; sure enough, coming nigh the place we heard a shuffling and snorting, and presently discovered a goat fast by the neck and half-choked, and beside her a little kid pitifully a-bleating.
"O Martin!" cries my lady, and falling on her knees began caressing and fondling the little creature whiles I secured the dam, and mighty joyful. The goat, for all its strangling, strove mightily, but lashing its fore and hind legs I contrived to get it upon my shoulders and thus burdened set off homewards, my lady carrying the kid clasped to her bosom, and it very content there and small wonder.
"'Tis sweet, pretty thing," says my lady, stroking its silky hair, "and shall soon grow tame."
"And here is the beginning of our flock: our cheese and butter shall not be long a-lacking now, comrade."
"You must fashion me a press, Martin."
"And a churn," says I.
"Nay I can manage well enough with one of our pipkins."
"But a churn would be easier for you, so a churn you shall have, of sorts."
This evening after supper, sitting by our fire, my lady (and despite her weariness) was merrier than her wont and very full of plans for the future, deciding for me what furniture I must construct next, as chairs (two) a cupboard with shelves, and where these should stand when made:
"And, Martin," says she, "now that we own goats I must have a dairy for my cheese-making, and my dairy shall be our larder, aye, and stillroom too, for I have been tending our garden lately and found growing many good herbs and simples. In time, Martin, these caves shall grow into a home indeed and all wrought by our own hands, and this is a sweet thought."
"Why so it is," says I, "in very truth—but—"
"But what, sir?" she questioned, lifting admonishing finger.
"There may come a day when we may weary of it, how then?"
"Nay we are too busy—"
"Can it—could it be"—says I, beginning to stammer—"that you might live here thus content to the end of your days?"
"The end of my days?" says she staring thoughtfully into the fire. "Why, Martin, this is a long way in the future I do pray, and our future is in the hands of God, so wherefore trouble?"
"Because I who have been stranger to Happiness hitherto, dread lest it may desert me and leave me the more woeful."
"Are you then happy at last—and so suddenly, Martin?"
Now this put me to no little heart-searching and perplexity, for casting back over the time since our landing on the island I knew that, despite my glooms and ill-humours, happiness had come to me in that hour I had found her alive.
"Why, I am no longer the miserable wretch I was," quoth I at last.
"Because of late you have forgot to grieve for yourself and past wrong and sorrows, Martin. Mayhap you shall one day forget them quite."
"Never!" quoth I.
"Yet so do I hope, Martin, with all my heart," says she and with a great sigh.
"Why then, fain would I forget an I might, but 'tis beyond me. The agony of the rowing-bench, the shame of stripes—the blood and bestiality of it all—these I may never forget."
"Why then, Martin—dear Martin," says she, all suddenly slipping from her stool to kneel before me and reach out her two hands. "I do pray our Heavenly Father, here and now before you, that you, remembering all this agony and shame, may make of it a crown of glory ennobling your manhood—that you, forgetting nothing, may yet put vengeance from you now and for ever and strive to forget—to forgive, Martin, and win thereby your manhood and a happiness undreamed—" here she stopped, her bosom heaving, her eyes all tender pleading; and I (O deaf and purblind fool!) hearing, heard not and seeing, saw nought but the witching beauty of her; and now, having her hands in mine, beholding her so near, I loosed her hands and turned away lest I should crush her to me.
"'Tis impossible!" I muttered. "I am a man and no angel—'tis impossible!" Hereupon she rose and stood some while looking down into the fire and never a word; suddenly she turned as to leave me, then, sitting on her stool, drew out her hairpins and shook down her shining hair that showed bronze-red where the light caught it. And beholding her thus, her lovely face offset by the curtain of her hair, her deep, long-lashed eyes, the vivid scarlet of her mouth, I knew the world might nowhere show me a maid so perfect in beauty nor so vitally a woman.
"Martin!" says she very softly, as she began braiding a thick tress of hair. "Have you ever truly loved any woman?"
"No," says I, "No!"
"Could you so love, I wonder?"
"No!" says I again and clenching my hands. "No—never!"
"Why, true," says she, more softly, "methinks in your heart is no room for poor Love, 'tis over-full of Hate, and hate is a disease incurable with you. Is't not so, Martin?"
"Yes—no! Nay, how should I know?" quoth I.
"Yet should love befall you upon a day, 'twould be love unworthy any good woman, Martin!"
"Why then," says I, "God keep me from the folly of love."
"Pray rather that Love, of its infinite wisdom, teach you the folly of hate, Martin!"
"'Tis a truth," says I bitterly, "a truth that hath become part of me! It hath been my companion in solitude, my comfort in my shameful misery, my hope, my very life or I had died else! And now—now you bid me forget it—as 'twere some mere whimsy, some idle fancy—this thought that hath made me strong to endure such shames and tribulations as few have been forced to suffer!"
"Aye, I do, I do!" she cried. "For your own sake, Martin, and for mine."
"No!" quoth I, "A thousand times! This thought hath been life to me, and only with life may I forego it!"
At this, the busy fingers faltered in their pretty labour, and, bowing her head upon her hand, she sat, her face hid from me, until I, not doubting that she wept, grew uneasy and questioned her at last.
"Nay, my lady—since this must be so—wherefore grieve?"
"Grieve?" says she lifting her head, and I saw her eyes all radiant and her red lips up-curving in a smile. "Nay, Martin, I do marvel how eloquent you grow upon your wrongs, indeed 'tis as though you feared you might forget them. Thus do you spur up slothful memory, which giveth me sure hope that one day 'twill sleep to wake no more."
And now, or ever I might find answer, she rose and giving me "Good-night" was gone, singing, to her bed; and I full of bewilderment. But suddenly as I sat thus, staring into the dying fire, she was back again.
"What now?" I questioned.
"Our goat, Martin! I may not sleep until I know her safe—come let us go look!" and speaking, she reached me her hand. So I arose, and thus with her soft, warm fingers in mine we went amid the shadows where I had tethered the goat to a tree hard beside the murmurous rill and found the animal lying secure and placidly enough, the kid beside her. The which sight seemed to please my lady mightily.
"But 'tis shame the poor mother should go tied always thus. Could you not make a picket fence, Martin? And she should have some refuge against the storms," to the which I agreed. Thus as we went back we fell to making plans, one project begetting another, and we very blithe about it.
HOW MY DEAR LADY WAS LOST TO ME
And now followed a season of much hard work, each day bringing its varied tasks and we right joyous in our labour, so that ofttimes I would hear her singing away in her sweet voice merry as any grig, or find myself whistling lustily to the tap of my hammer. And now indeed my saw (and all rusty though it was) served me faithfully and well, and my carpentry went forward apace. During this time also we added four goats and six kids to our flock, so that we had good store of milk, and having with my lady's help made our net with strands of cord knotted crosswise, we caught therewith great plenty of fish.
Remembering my adventure with the Indian I furnished myself with a good stout pike and a couple of javelins; moreover I set up divers marks, like rovers, and every day I would shoot at these with my bow, so that I soon became so dexterous I could bring down a bird on the wing six times out of seven, though in teaching myself this proficiency I lost four of my Indian arrows beyond recovery.
Thus sped the time all too quickly, but with each day came a greater understanding and a deeper amity betwixt my lady and me.
Now much and very much might I set down here concerning this my sweet comrade, her many noble qualities, and how, as our fellowship lengthened, I (that was a man selfish beyond thought) finding her unselfish always and uncomplaining, seeing her so brave in the face of adversity, and indomitable to overcome all difficulty, yet ever and always a woman gracious and tender, I, by my very reverence for her sweet womanhood, became in some sense a better man.
I might tell how, when my black moods took me, the mere sight of her, the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand, nay her very nearness was enough to dispel them.
I might paint to your imagination the way her hair curled at her temples, the trick she had of biting her nether lip when at all put out, of the jut of her pretty chin when angered. Then the sweet, vibrant softness of her voice, her laughter, the wonder of her changing moods—all these I would dilate upon if I might, since 'tis joy to me, but lest I prove wearisome I will hasten on to the finding of Black Bartlemy's Treasure, of all that led up to it and all those evils that followed after it. And this bringeth me to a time whenas we sat, she and I, eating our breakfast and the world all radiant with a young sun.
"To-night," says she, "if my calculations be right, should be a new moon. And I am glad, for I do love the moon."
"Aye, but how should you judge this?" says I, wondering.
"Because I have kept a record, Martin. A stroke for each day and a cross for every Sunday."
"Excellent!" quoth I. "Then you will know how long we have lived here?"
"Two months and five days, Martin."
"So long a time?" says I amazed.
"Hath it seemed so very long?" she questioned.
"No indeed!" says I. "No, and there's the marvel!"
"'Tis no marvel, Martin, you have been too full of business to heed time. Let us reckon up what we have achieved thus far. First of all a three-legged stool for me—"
"Hairpins!" says I.
"A spoon, Martin, and shoes for me—"
"Lamps and candles!" quoth I.
"A table, Martin—"
"A fishing line and two hooks."
"Two armchairs, Martin, a cupboard and a press."
"A churn!" says I.
"You are forgetting our five pipkins, Martin."
"True," says I, "and clumsy things they are!"
"But very useful, sir! Next a fishing-net, and a bed for me. Here is fine achievement, Martin! Are you not proud to have wrought so much and with so little?"
"But there is much yet to do!" quoth I.
"So much the better!" says she. "Thus far I am well content."
"And happy?" I demanded.
"Aye, Martin—are you?"
Now at this I fell to profound reverie and she also, and this the subject of my musings, viz.,
In every man and woman born into this world (as it doth seem to me) God putteth some of His infinite self whereby all things are possible in degree greater or smaller; for to the God within us all things are possible, 'tis our very humanity that limits our potentialities. Confidence in this power within us is a mighty aid to all endeavour whereby we, our coward flesh notwithstanding, may attempt great things, and though, being human, we ofttimes fail, yet this very effort strengthens and ennobles us.
"Who art thou," cries Flesh, "to adventure thing so great and above thy puny strength to perform? Who art thou?" "I am God!" answers Man-soul, "Since finite man am I only by reason of thee, base, coward Flesh." Thus (to my thinking) in every man is angel and demon, each striving 'gainst each for the soul of him; whereby he doeth evil or good according to the which of these twain he aideth to victory. Howbeit, thus it is with me, I being, despite my seeming slowness, of quick and passionate temper and of such desperate determination that once set on a course needs would I pursue it though it led to my own confounding and destruction. For now, indeed, I wrought that the which brought on my lady great sorrow and grievous peril, and on myself shame, bloodshed and a black despair, and this the manner of it.
"Are you not happy, Martin?" says she, "Happy and proud to have accomplished so much with so little?"
"No!" says I, and so bitterly-fierce that she blenched from me. "For look now," says I, clenching my fist, "here have we wrought and slaved together day in and day out—and to what end?"
"That we may live—to our comfort—" says she a little breathlessly.
"And to what end?" I demanded. "To what purpose have you cozened me to labour thus?"
"I? I don't understand you, Martin!" says she unsteadily.
"Here's you cast alone with me on this island. 'He is a man,' says you to yourself, 'and I a lonely woman. So must I keep him busy, his mind ever employed on some labour, no matter what, lest peradventure he make love to me—'"
"Stop!" cries she angrily, leaping up to her feet all in a moment. "For shame, Martin Conisby! You wrong me and yourself—I am your comrade—"
"Nay, you are a woman, very subtle, and quick-witted as you are beautiful. So have you kept me in ploy thus, yearning meanwhile for some ship—anything to bear you safe away from me! Often have I seen you staring seaward and praying for a sail."
"O you lie, Martin, you lie! Ah, have I not trusted you?"
"Aye, as one might a tiger, by humouring me and distracting my attention! All these weeks I have scarce touched you and kissed you never, nor had I thought to—but now by God—"
"Martin—O Martin, what would you—"
"Kiss you!" says I savagely, and caught her wrists.
"Nay, that you shall never do—with that look on your face!" cries she, and twisted so strongly as nigh broke my hold; but despite all her desperate striving, struggle how she might, I dragged her to me, pinning her arms in my cruel embrace; but still she withstood me and with such fury of strength that twice we staggered and came near falling, until all at once she yielded and lay all soft, her breath coming in little, pitiful, panting groans. So I kissed her as I would, her hair, her eyes, her parted lips, her cool, soft throat, until sun and trees and green grass seemed to spin and whirl dizzily about me, until my lips were wet with her salt tears.
"O God—O God!" she whispered, "O Martin that I trusted so, will you kill my faith and trust? Will you shame your comrade? You that I loved—"
"Loved!" says I, catching my breath and staring down at her tear-wet lashes, "Loved me—O Damaris—"
"Aye loved, and honoured you above all men until the beast broke loose."
"And now?" cried I hoarsely, "And now—what? Speak!"
"God's pity—loose me, Martin!"
"And now what—tell me. Is't hate now, scorn and contempt—as 'twas aboard ship?"
"O Martin—let me go!" she sobbed.
"Answer me, is it hate henceforth?"
"Yes!" she panted, "Yes!" and tore herself from my hold. But, as she turned to fly me, I caught her back to me and, madman that I was, bent her backward across my knee that I might look down into her eyes; and, meeting my look, she folded her hands upon her bosom and closing her eyes, spoke broken and humbled:
"Take—take your will of me—Black Bartlemy—I am not—brave enough to stab you as—she did—"
Now at this I shivered and must needs cast my gaze towards that great pimento tree that towered afar off. So, then, my hateful dream had come true, and now I knew myself for black a rogue as ever Bartlemy had been. So I loosed her and starting up, stood staring across the desolation of ocean.
"O Damaris!" says I at last, "Here in my belt was my knife to your hand, 'twere better you had stabbed me indeed and I, dying, would have kissed your feet after the manner of yon dead rogue. As it is I must live hating myself for having destroyed the best, the sweetest thing life could offer me and that, your trust. But, O my lady," says I, looking down where she knelt, her face bowed upon her hands, "I do love you reverently and beyond my life."
"Even greatly enough to forego your vengeance?" she questioned softly, and without glancing up.
"God help me!" cried I, "How may I forget the oath I swore on my father's grave?"
"You broke your oath to me!" says she, never stirring, "So do I know that true love hath not touched you."
"Think of me as you will," quoth I, "but—"
"I know!" says she, raising her head at last and looking up at me, "I am sure, Martin. Where hate is, true love can never be, and love howsoever vehement is gentle and reverent and, being of God, a very holy thing! But you have made of it a thing of passion, merciless and cruel—'tis love debased."
"So will I get hence," says I, "for since I have destroyed your faith how shall you ever sleep again and know yourself secure and such rogue as I near you. I'll go, Damaris, I'll away and take your fears along with me."
Then, the while she watched me dumbly, I slung my bow and quiver of arrows about me, set the hatchet in my girdle and, taking my pike, turned to go; but, checking my haste, went into the cave (she following me silent always) and taking the pistol from where it hung, examined flint and priming and charge and laid it on the table.
"Should you need me at any time, shoot off this pistol and I will come" says I, "so good-bye, my lady!" But scarce was I without the cave than she comes to me with my chain-shirt in her hands, and when I would have none of it, grew the more insistent.
"Put it on," says she gently, "who can tell what may befall you, so put it on I pray!" Thus in the end I donned it, though with ill grace; which done, I took my pike across my shoulder and strode away. And when I had gone some distance I glanced back and saw her standing where I had left her, watching me and with her hands clasped tight together.
"Good-bye, Martin!" says she. "O good-bye!" and vanished into the gloom of the cave.
As for me I strode on at speed and careless of direction, for my mind was a whirl of conflicting thoughts and a bitter rage against myself. Thus went I a goodish while and all-unheeding, and so at last found myself lost amidst mazy thickets and my eight-foot pike very troublesome. Howbeit I presently gained more open ways and went at speed, though whither, I cared not. The sun was westering when, coming out from the denser woods, I saw before me that high hill whose rocky summit dominated the island, and bent my steps thitherward; and then all in a moment my heart gave a great leap and I stood still, for borne to me on the soft air came a sudden, sharp sound, and though faint with distance I knew it for the report of a firearm. At this thrice-blessed sound an overwhelming great joy and gratitude surged within me since thus, of her infinite mercy my lady had summoned me back; and now as I retraced my steps full of thankfulness, I marvelled to find my eyes a-watering and myself all trembling eagerness to behold her loveliness again, to hear her voice, mayhap to touch her hand; indeed I felt as we had been parted a year rather than a brief hour. And now I got me to dreaming how I should meet her and how she would greet me. She should find a new Martin, I told myself. Suddenly these deluding dreams were shivered to horrible fear and myself brought, sweating, to a standstill by another sound that smote me like a blow, for I knew this for the deep-toned report of a musket. For a moment I stood leaning on my pike as one dazed, then the hateful truth of it seized me and I began to run like any madman. Headlong I went, bursting my way through tangled vines and undergrowth, heedless of the thorns that gashed me, cursing such obstacles as stayed me; now o'erleaping thorny tangles, now pausing to beat me a way with my pikestaff, running at breathless speed whenever I might until (having taken a wrong direction in my frenzy) I came out amid those vines and bushes that bordered the lake of the waterfall, and right over against the great rock I have mentioned. But from where I was (the place being high) I could see over and beyond this rock; and as I stood panting and well-nigh spent, mighty distraught and my gaze bent thitherward, I shivered (despite the sweat that streamed from me) with sudden awful chill, for from those greeny depths I heard a scream, wild and heartrending, and knowing this voice grew sick and faint and sank weakly to my knees; and now I heard vile laughter, then hoarse shouts, and forth of the underbrush opposite broke a wild, piteous figure all rent and torn yet running very fleetly; as I watched, cursing my helplessness, she tripped and fell, but was up again all in a moment, yet too late, for then I saw her struggling in the clasp of a ragged, black-bearded fellow and with divers other men running towards them.
And now madness seized me indeed, for between us was the lake, and, though my bow was strung and ready, I dared not shoot lest I harm her. Thus as I watched in an agony at my impotence, my lady broke her captor's hold and came running, and he and his fellows hard after her. Straight for the rock she came, and being there stood a moment to stare about her like the piteous, hunted creature she was:
"Martin!" she cried, "O Martin!" and uttering this dolorous cry (and or ever I might answer) she tossed wild arms to heaven and plunged over and down. I saw her body strike the water in a clean dive and vanish into those dark and troubled deeps, and with breath in check and glaring eyes, waited for her to reappear; I heard vague shouts and cries where her pursuers watched for her likewise, but I heeded them nothing, staring ever and waiting—waiting. But these gloomy waters gave no sign, and so at last my breath burst from me in a bitter, sobbing groan. One by one the minutes dragged by until I thought my brain must crack, for nowhere was sign of that beloved shape. And then—all at once, I knew she must be dead; this sweet innocent slain thus before my eyes, snatched out of life and lost forever to me for all time, lost to me beyond recovery.
At last I turned my haggard, burning eyes upon her murderers—four of them there were and all staring into those cruel, black waters below and not a word betwixt them. Suddenly the black-bearded man snapped his fingers and laughed even as my bowstring twanged; then I saw him leap backwards, screaming with pain, his shoulder transfixed by my arrow. Immediately (and ere I might shoot again) his fellows dragged him down, and lying prone on their bellies let fly wildly in my direction with petronel and musquetoon. And now, had I been near enough, I would have leaped upon them to slay and be slain, since life was become a hateful thing. As it was, crouched there 'mid the leaves, I watched them crawl from the rock dragging their hurt comrade with them. Then, seeing them stealing off thus, a mighty rage filled me, ousting all other emotion, and (my bow in one hand and pike in the other) I started running in pursuit. But my great pike proving over-cumbersome, I cast it away that I might go the faster, trusting rather to my five arrows and the long-bladed knife in my girdle, and the thought of this knife and its deadly work at close quarters heartened me mightily as I ran; yet in a while, the passion of my anger subsiding, grief took its place again and a hopeless desolation beyond words. So ran I, blinded by scalding tears and my heart breaking within me, and thus came I to a place of rocks, and looking not to my feet it chanced that I fell and, striking my head against a rock, knew no more; and lost in a blessed unconsciousness, forgot awhile the anguish of my breaking heart.
TELLETH SOME PART OF A NIGHT OF AGONY
When at last I opened my eyes I found myself in a place of gloom and very stiff and sore; therefore I lay where I was nor sought to move. Little by little, as I lay thus 'twixt sleep and wake, I was aware of a pallid glow all about me, and lifting heavy head, saw the moon low down in the sky like a great golden sickle. And staring up at this, of a sudden back rushed memory (and with it my hopeless misery) for now I remembered how, but a few short hours since, my dear lady had prophesied this new moon. Hereupon, crouching there, my aching head bowed upon my hands, I gave myself up to my despair and a corroding grief beyond all comforting.
From where I crouched I might look down upon this accursed lake, a misty horror of gloomy waters, and beholding this, I knew that my gentle, patient comrade was gone from me, that somewhere within those black and awful depths her tender body was lying. She was dead, her sweet voice for ever hushed, she that had been so vitally alive! And remembering all her pretty ways I grew suddenly all blind with tears and, casting myself down, lay a great while sobbing and groaning until I could weep no more.
At last, sitting up, I wondered to find my head so painful, and putting up my hand found my face all wet and sticky with blood that flowed from a gash in my hair. And remembering how I had fallen and the reason of my haste I started up and forthwith began seeking my knife and hatchet, and presently found them hard by where I had tripped. Now standing thus, knife in one hand and hatchet in the other, I turned to look down upon these dark and evil waters.
"Goodbye, my lady!" says I, "Fare thee well, sweet comrade! Before to-morrow dawn we will meet again, I pray, and shalt know me for truer man and better than I seemed!" So, turning my back on the lake I went to seek my vengeance on her destroyers and death at their hands an it might be so.
In a while I came to that torrent where the water flowed out from the lake, its bed strewn with tumbled rocks and easy enough to cross, the water being less in volume by reason of the dry weather. All at once I stopped, for amid these rocks and boulders I saw caught all manner of drift, as sticks and bushes, branches and the like, washed down by the current and which, all tangled and twisted together, choked this narrow defile, forming a kind of barrier against the current. Now as I gazed at this, my eyes (as if directed by the finger of God) beheld something caught in this barrier, something small and piteous to see but which set me all a-trembling and sent me clambering down these rocks; and reaching out shaking hand I took up that same three-pronged pin I had carved and wrought for her hair. Thus stood I to view this through my blinding tears and to kiss and kiss it many times over because it had known her better than I. But all at once I thrust this precious relic into my bosom and stared about me with new and awful expectation, for the current which had brought this thing would bring more. So I began to seek among these rocks where the stream ran fast and in each pool and shallow, and once, sweating and shivering, stooped to peer at something that gleamed white from a watery hollow, and gasped my relief to find it was no more than a stone. None the less sought I with a prayer on my lips, dreading to find that white and tender body mangled by the cruel rocks, yet searching feverishly none the less. Long I stayed there, until the moon, high-risen, sent down her tender beam as though to aid me. But of this time I will write no more, since even now it is a misery to recall.
At last, I (that knew myself a man about to die) turned me towards our habitation, those rocks she had called "home," and reaching the plateau I stood still, swept alternately by grief and passion, to see this our refuge all desecrated by vile hands, our poor furniture scattered without the cave. And presently I espied her three-legged stool standing where she had been wont to sit to watch and cheer me at my labour; coming thither I fell on my knees, and laying my head thereon wetted this unlovely thing with my tears and kissed it many times. As I lay thus, much that she had done and said (little things forgot till now) rushed upon my memory; her sweet, calm presence seemed all about me soothing away the passion of my grief. And in this hour that was to end my miserable life, I knew at last that I had loved her purely and truly from the first, and with such love as might have lifted me to heaven. And kneeling thus, I spake aloud to this her sweet presence that seemed to hover about me:
"O Damaris, beloved—as thou, to 'scape shame, hast chosen death—in death I'll follow thee—trusting to a merciful God that I may find thee again!" Then uprising from my knees, I came out from the shadows, and standing in the moon's radiance, looked heedfully to the edge of my axe, and with it gripped in my hand, went out to find death.
HOW I SOUGHT DEATH BUT FOUND IT NOT
Beyond Deliverance Sands I saw the glow of their fire, and drawing thither knew them camped in the shadow of that great pimento tree and within that rocky gorge the which had afforded my dear lady and me our first night's shelter. Being come thither, I sat me down and took counsel how best to attack them that I might slay as many as possible ere they gave me the death I hungered for; and the end of it was I began to scale the cliff, my goatskin buskins soundless and very sure amid the rocks.
As I mounted I heard the hoarse murmur of their voices and knew by their very intonation (since I could hear no words as yet) that they were speaking English. Reaching the summit, and mighty cautious, I came where I might look down into the cleft.
They lay sprawled about their fire, four grim-looking fellows, ragged and unkempt, three of them talking together and one who lay groaning ever and anon.
"Be damned, t'ye, Joel for a lily-livered dog!" growled a great, bony fellow, "Here's good an island as man can want—"
"And full of bloody Indians—eh, Humphrey?" says a black-jowled fellow, turning on the wounded man. "Us do know the Indians, don't us Humphrey? Inca, Aztec, Mosquito and Cimaroon, we know 'em and their devil's ways, don't us, Humphrey?"
"Aye—aye!" groaned the wounded man. "They tortured me once and they've done for me at last, by God! My shoulder's afire—"
"And the shaft as took ye, Humphrey, were a Indian shaft—a Indian shaft, weren't it, lad? And all trimmed wi' gold, aren't it? Here, ye may see for yourselves! 'Sequently I do know it for the shaft of a chief or cacique and where a cacique is there's Indians wi' him—O thick as thieves—I know and Humphrey knows! I say this curst island be full of Indians, thick as fleas, curse 'em! And they'll have us soon or late and torment us. So what I says is, let's away at the flood and stand away for the Main—the sea may be bad now and then, but Indians be worse—always and ever!"
"Why, as to that, Ned, the Indians ha' left us alone—"
"Aye!" cried the bony man, "And what o' the wench—her was no Indian, I lay! A fine, dainty piece she was, by hooky! And handsome, ah—handsome! But for Humphrey's bungling—"
Here the man Humphrey groaned and cursed the speaker bitterly.
"Howbeit—'twas an Indian arrer!" says Ned. "And that means Indians, and Indians means death to all on us—ask Humphrey! Death—eh, Humphrey?"
"Aye—death!" groaned Humphrey, "Death's got his grapples aboard me now. I'm a-dying, mates—dying! Get me aboard, death will come easier in open water."
"Why, if ye must die, Humphrey," growled the bony man, "die, lad, die and get done wi' it, the sooner the better. As to Indians I wait till I see 'em, and as for Death—"
"Death?" gasped Humphrey, "Here's for you first!" and whipping out a knife he made a fierce thrust at the speaker; but the others closed with him. Then as they strove together panting and cursing I rose to come at them; but the wounded man, chancing to lift his head, saw me where I stood, the moonlight on my bloody face, and uttered a hoarse scream.
"Death!" cries he, "'Tis on us mates—look, look yonder! Death and wounds—yonder he comes for all of us—O mates look! Yon's death—for all on us!"
But in this moment I leaped down upon them from above, sending one man sprawling and scattering their fire, and 'mid whirling sparks and smoke, within this dim rock-cleft we fought with a merciless fury and desperation beyond words. A pistol flashed and roared and then another as I leapt with whirling axe and darting knife. I remember a wild hurly-burly of random blows, voices that shouted hoarse blasphemies, screams and groans, a whirl of vicious arms, of hands that clutched; once I reeled to hard-driven sword-thrust, a knife flashed and stabbed beneath my arm, but twice I got home with my knife and once a man sobbed and went down beneath my hatchet—and then they were running and I after them. But I had taken a scathe in my leg and twice I fell; thus they reached their boat with some hundred yards to spare, and I saw their frantic struggles to launch it as I staggered after them; but ere I could reach them they had it afloat and tumbled aboard pell-mell. Then came I, panting curses, and plunged into the sea, wading after them up to my middle and so near that, aiming a blow at one of them, I cut a great chip from the gunwale, but, reeling from the blow of an oar, sank to my knees, and a wave breaking over me bore me backward, choking. Thus when I found my feet again they were well away and plying their oars lustily, whiles I, roaring and shouting, stood to watch them until the boat was lost in the distance. Now as I stood thus, raging bitterly at my impotence, I bethought me that I had seen but three men run and, turning about, hasted back to deal with the fourth. Reaching the scene of the struggle, I came on the man Humphrey outstretched upon his back in the moonlight and his face well-nigh shorn asunder. Seeing him thus so horribly dead, I went aside and fell to scrubbing my hatchet, blade and haft, with the cleanly sand.
Then came I, and grasping this thing had been named Humphrey, I dragged it a-down the sands and hove it forthwith into the sea, standing thereafter to watch it borne out on the receding tide. Now as I watched thus, came a wave that lifted the thing so that this dead man seemed to rise up and wave an arm to me ere he vanished.
This done (and I yet alive!) I took to wandering aimlessly hither and thither, and chancing into the rocky cleft found lying three muskets and four pistols with bandoliers full-charged, together with a knife and a couple of swords; these I set orderly together and so wandered away again.
All this night I rambled about thus, and dawn found me seated 'neath Bartlemy's tree staring at the ocean yet seeing it not.
So God had refused my appeal! It seemed I could not die. And presently, chancing to look down at myself in the growing light I understood the reason, for here was I armed in my shirt of mail (forgotten till now) and scowling down at this, I saw its fine, steel links scratched and scored by many blows and bedaubed here and there with blood. So then (thinks I) 'twas she had saved me alive, and in this thought found me some small solace. Hereupon I arose and went down to the sea, limping by reason of my hurt (an ugly gash above my knee) being minded to wash from me the grime and smears that fouled me. But or ever I reached the water I stopped, for there, more hateful in sun than moonlight, lay that ghastly thing that had been Humphrey. There he lay, cast up by the tide, and now, with every wave that broke, he stirred gently and moved arms and legs in wanton, silly fashion, and nodding with his shattered head as in mockery of me. So I went and, seizing hold upon the thing, swung it upon my back and, thus burdened, climbed out upon the reef (and with mighty trouble, for my strength seemed oozing out of me). Reaching a place at last where the water ran deep I paused, and with sudden, painful effort whirled the thing above my head and hove it far out, where, splashing, it fell with sullen plunge and vanished from my sight. But even so I was possessed of sudden, uneasy feeling that the thing had turned on me and was swimming back to shore, so that, drawing my knife, I must needs sit there awhile to watch if this were so indeed. At last I arose, but being come to Deliverance Sands, whirled suddenly about, expectant to behold that dead thing uprising from the surge to flap derisive arms at me. And this did I many times, being haunted thus all that day, and for many weary hours thereafter, by this dead man Humphrey. Presently, as I went heedless of all direction and the sun very hot, I began to stagger in my gait and to mutter her name to myself and presently to shouting it, until the cliffs gave back my cries and the hollow caves murmured, "Damaris! O Damaris!"
And now was a mist all about me wherein dim forms moved mocking me, and ever and anon methought to behold my lady, but dim and very far removed from me, so that sometimes I ran and oft-times I fell to moaning and shedding weak and impotent tears. Truly a black and evil day for me this, whereof I have but a vague memory save only of pain, a hopeless weariness and intolerable thirst. Thus it was sunset when I found myself once more upon that grassy plateau, creeping on hands and knees, though how I came thither I knew not. I remember drinking from the little rill and staggering within the cave, there to fall and lie filling the place with my lamentations and oft-repeated cry of "Damaris! O Damaris!" I remember a patch of silver light, a radiance that crept across the gloom, and of dreaming my lady beside me as of old, and of babbling of love and forgiveness, of pain and heartbreak, whiles I watched the beam of light creeping nigh me upon the floor; until, sobbing and moaning, yet gazing ever upon this light, I saw grow upon it a sudden dark shape that moved, heard a rustle behind me, a footstep—a cry! And knowing this for the man Humphrey come upon me at last in my weakness, I strove to rise, to turn and face him, but finding this vain, cried out upon him for murderer. "'Twas you killed her—my love—the very soul of me—'twas you, Humphrey, that are dead—come, that I may slay you again!" Then feeling his hands upon me I strove to draw my knife, but could not and groaned, and so knowledge passed from me.
CONCERNING THE DEAD MAN HUMPHREY AND HOW I SAW A VISION IN THE MOONLIGHT
My next memory was of sun and a dance of leafy shadows on the wall of the cave, the which shadows held my attention so that I had no will to look otherwhere; for these were merry shadows that leapt in sportive gambols, that danced and swayed, pleasing me mightily. And as I watched these antic shadows I could hear the pleasant murmur of the little rill without the cave, that bubbled with sweet, soft noises like small, babbling voices and brake ever and anon into elfin laughter. And presently, mingled with this pretty babblement, I seemed to hear a whisper:
"Martin! Dear Martin!"
And now I saw my lady plunge to death from the rock, and started up, filling the place with my lamentations, until for very weakness I lay hushed and heard again the soft rippling of the brook and therewith her voice very sweet and faint and far away:
"Martin! Dear Martin!"
I remember a season of blackness in which dim-seen, evil things menaced me, and a horror of dreams wherein I, fettered and fast bound, must watch my sweet lady struggle, weeping, in the arms of vile rogues whiles I strove desperately to break my bonds, and finding this vain, fell to raging madness and dashed myself hither and thither to slay myself and end my torment. Or, axe in hand, amid smoke and flame, I fell upon her murderers; then would I smite down the man Humphrey only for him to rise to be smitten again and yet again, nodding shattered head and flapping nerveless arms in derision of me until, knowing I might never slay him—he being already dead—I turned to flee, but with him ever behind me and in my ears his sobbing cry of "Death for all of us—death!" And feeling his hands on me I would fall to desperate struggle until the blackness closed over me again thick and stifling like a sea.
And behind all these horrors was a haunting knowledge that I was going mad, that this man Humphrey was waiting for me out beyond the surf beckoning to me with flapping arms, and had cast on me a spell whereby, as my brain shrivelled to madness, my body was shrivelling and changing into that of Black Bartlemy. Always I knew that Humphrey waited me beyond the reef, watchful for my coming and growing ever more querulous and eager as the spell wrought on me so that he began to call to me in strange, sobbing voice, hailing me by my new name:
"Bartlemy, ahoy! Black Bartlemy—Bartlemy ho! Come your ways to Humphrey, that being dead can die no more and, knowing all, doth know you for Bartlemy crept back from hell. So come, Bartlemy, come and be as I am. And there's others here, proper lads as wants ye too, dead men all—by the rope, by the knife, by the bullet—oho!
There be two at the fore, At the main be three more, Dead men that swing all of a row; Here's fine, dainty meat For the fishes to eat: Black Bartlemy—Bartlemy ho!
There's a fine Spanish dame, Joanna's her name, Must follow wherever ye go; Till your black heart shall feel Your own cursed steel: Black Bartlemy—Bartlemy ho!"
And I, hearkening to this awful sobbing voice, sweating and shivering in the dark, knew that, since I was indeed Black Bartlemy, sooner or later I must go.
Thus it befell that of a sudden I found myself, dazzled by a fierce sun, supporting me against a rock and my breath coming in great gasps. And in a while, my eyes growing stronger, I stared away to the reef where this man Humphrey waited me with his "dead men all"; and since I must needs go there I wept because it was so far off.
Now as I stood grieving thus, I saw one stand below me on Deliverance, looking also towards the reef, a woman tall and very stately and habited in gown of rich satin and embroidery caught in at slender waist with golden girdle, and about her head a scarf of lace. And this woman stood with bowed head and hands tight-clasped as one that grieved also; suddenly she raised her head and lifted folded hands to the cloudless heaven in passionate supplication. And beholding her face I knew her for the poor Spanish lady imploring just heaven for vengeance on me that had been her undoing; and uttering a great cry, I sank on my knees:
"Mercy, O God—mercy! Let me not be mad!"
Yet, even as I prayed, I knew that madness was upon me ere I plunged again into the dreadful dark.
But God (whose mercy is infinite) hearkened to my distressful cry, for, in a while, He brought me up from that black abyss and showed me two marvels, the which filled me with wonder and a sudden, passionate hope. And the first was the bandage that swathed my thigh; and this of itself enough to set my poor wits in a maze of speculation. For this bandage was of linen, very fine and delicate, such as I knew was not to be found upon the whole island; yet here was it, bound about my hurt, plain and manifest and set there by hands well-skilled in such kindly work.
And my second wonder was a silver beaker or ewer, very artfully wrought and all chased and embossed with designs of fruit and flower and of a rare craftsmanship, and this jug set within my reach and half-full of milk. The better to behold this, I raised myself and with infinite labour. But now, and suddenly, she was before me again, this poor Spanish lady I had slain upon a time, wherefore I blenched and shrank from her coming. But she, falling upon her knees, sought to clasp me in her arms, crying words I heeded not as (maugre my weakness) I strove wildly to hold her off.
"I am Bartlemy that killed you!" says I. "I am Black Bartlemy! They know out yonder beyond the reef, hark and you shall hear how they hail me—"
"O kind God, teach me how I may win him back to knowledge!" So crying, this Spanish lady of a sudden unpinned her hair and shook its glossy ripples all about her:
"Look, Martin!" cries she, "Don't you know me—O don't you know me now? I am Joan—come back to you—"
"No!" says I, "No—Damaris is dead and lost—I saw her die!"
"Then who am I, Martin?"
"The Spanish lady or—one of the ghosts do haunt me."
But now her hands were clasping mine, her soft hair all about me as she stooped. And feeling these hands so warm and vital, so quick and strong with life, I began to tremble and strove against her no longer; and so she stooped above me that I might feel her sweet breath on fevered cheek and brow:
"'Tis your Damaris, Martin," says she, her tears falling fast, "'tis your comrade hath come back to comfort you."
Now seeing how I stared all trembling and amazed, she set her arms about me, and drawing me to her bosom, clasped me there. And my head pillowed thus I fell a-weeping, but these tears were tears of joy and thankfulness beyond all words.
"O Damaris," quoth I at last, "if this be death I care not since I have seen thee again!"
"Why, Martin," says she, weeping with me, "art indeed so glad—so glad to find again thy poor comrade!"
And thus, knowing myself forgiven, a great joy sang within me.
HOW MY DEAR LADY CAME BACK TO ME
I was sitting in one of our armchairs amid the leafy shade watching her knead dough with her two pretty fists. To this end she had rolled up the sleeves of her splendid gown; and thus I, hearkening to her story, must needs stare at her soft, round arms and yearn mightily to kiss their velvety smoothness and, instantly be-rating myself therefor, shifted my gaze from these temptations to my own unlovely figure, contrasting myself and my worn garments with her rich attire and proud and radiant beauty; she was again the great lady and far removed above such poor wretch as I, for all her pitiful tenderness.
"... and so when I plunged from the rock," she was saying, "I never thought to see this dear place again or the blessed sun! And I sank ... O deep—deep! Then, Martin, I seemed to be caught in some current, far down there in the darkness, that whirled and tossed me and swept me up behind the torrent. And in the rock was a great cavern sloping to the water, and there this current threw me, all breathless and nigh dead, Martin."
"God be thanked!" says I fervently.
"And there I lay all night, Martin, very sick and fearful. When day came I saw this great cave opened into a smaller and this into yet another. So I came to a passage in the rock, and because there was none other way for me, I followed this—and then—O Martin!"
"What?" quoth I, leaning forward.
"Have you ever been to the palace at Versailles, Martin!"
"Once, as a boy with my father."
"Well, Martin, the cave—the hall I came to at last was more splendid than any Versailles can show. And then I knew that I had found—Black Bartlemy's Treasure!"
"Ha!" quoth I. "And is it indeed so great?"
"Beyond description!" says she, clasping her floury hands and turning on me with shining eyes. "I have held in my hands, jewels—O by the handful! Great pearls and diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires—beyond price!"
"Aye!" I nodded, "But was this all?"
"All, Martin?" says she, staring.
"Why, according to Adam there should be all manner of stores," says I, "powder and shot, tools—a carpenter's chest—"
"They are all there, with provisions of every kind; as witness this flour, Martin, but I heeded only these wondrous jewels!" Hereupon she turns to her work again, describing to me the splendour of these precious stones and the wonder of Bartlemy's treasure, whiles I, viewing her loveliness, would have given such foolish treasure a thousand times for but her little finger, as watching the play of her round arms again, I fell a-sighing, whereupon she turns, all anxious questioning.
"Doth your wound trouble you, Martin?"
"Nay, indeed," says I, shaking my head, "I am very well, I thank you!"
"Then wherefore sigh so deep and oft?"
"I am a vasty fool!"
"Are you, Martin—why?" But in place of answer I rose and, coming beside her, scowled to see the tender flesh of her arms all black and bruised:
"What is this?" I demanded.
"Nought to matter!"
"Who did it?"
"You, Martin. In your raving you were very strong, mistaking me for the poor Spanish lady."
"O forgive me!" I cried, and stooping to this pretty arm would have touched my lips thereto for mere pity but checked myself, fearing to grieve her; perceiving this she comes a little nearer:
"You may—an you so desire, Martin," says she, "though 'tis all floury!" So I kissed her arm, tenderly and very reverently, as it had been some holy thing (as indeed so I thought it).
"I'm glad 'twas I did this, comrade."
"Aye! I had rather 'twas myself than yon evil rogues—nay forget them," says I, seeing her shiver, "plague on me for reminding you."
"Why then, forget them—and I have their weapons to cope with 'em should they return."
"Now thank God!" cries she, clasping my hand in both of hers. "Thank God, Martin! I feared you had killed them all!"
"Why, I did my best," I sighed, shaking my head, "but they were too strong for me! Would to God I had indeed slain—"
"Hush, Martin, O hush!" And here she claps her pretty hand to my lips, where I straightway 'prisoned it to my kisses. "Though truly," says she the whiles this was a-doing, "from your raving I feared them all slain at your hand, so do I rejoice to know you innocent of their deaths!" Here, her hand released, she fell a-laughing (albeit a little tremulously) to see my face all patched with flour; and so, back to her labour.
"But, Martin," says she, turning to glance at me in a while, "You must be very terrible to drive away these four great men, and very brave!"
"Here was no bravery!" quoth I, "Methought you surely dead and I meant them to slay me also."
"Did you—miss me—so greatly?" she questioned and not looking at me.
"You fought them in Skeleton Cove, beyond Deliverance, Martin?"
"Aye! You found their guns there?"
"And the sand all trampled and hatefully stained. 'Tis an evil place, Martin."
"And so it is!" says I. "But as to these weapons, there were two good firelocks I mind, and besides—"
"They are all here, Martin, guns and swords and pistols. You raved for them in your sickness so I fetched them while you slept. Though indeed you have no need of these, there be weapons of every sort in the Treasure cave, 'tis like an arsenal."
"Ha, with good store of powder and shot, comrade?"
"How many weeks have I lain sick, comrade?"
"Nay, 'twas only four days."
At this I fell to marvelling that so much of agony might be endured in so little time.
"And you—tended me, Damaris?"
"Why, to be sure, Martin."
"And so saved my life."
"So I pray may it be a life lived to noble purpose, Martin."
And now I sat awhile very thoughtful and watched her shape the dough into little cakes and set them to bake.
"I must contrive you an oven and this at once!" says I.
"When you are strong again, Martin."
"Nay, I'm well, thanks to your care of me. And truly 'twill be wonderful to eat bread again."
"But I warned you I had no yeast!" says she, looking at me a little anxiously, "Nay, sir, why must you smile?"
"'Tis strange to see you at such labour and clad so vastly fine!"
"Indeed, sir needs must this your cook-maid go bedight like any queen since nought is there in Black Bartlemy's Treasure that is not sumptuous and splendid. Have you no desire to behold these wonders for yourself?"
"Not a tittle!" says I.
"But, Martin, three months are nigh sped and Master Penfeather not come, and according to his letter, three-quarters of this great treasure is yours."
"Why then, my lady, I do freely bestow it on you."
"Nay, this have I taken already because I needed it, look!" So saying she drew a comb from her hair and showed me how it was all fashioned of wrought gold and set with great gems, pearls and sapphires and rubies marvellous to see.
"'Tis mighty handsome," quoth I, "and beyond price, I judge."
"And yet," says she, "I would rather have my wooden pin in its stead, for surely there was none like to it in all this world."
Hereupon, groping in my pocket I brought out that three-pronged pin I had carved for her; beholding which, she uttered a little cry of glad surprise, and letting fall her golden comb, took the pin to turn it this way and that, viewing it as it had been the very wonder of the world rather than the poor thing it was.
"Why, Martin!" says she at last, "Why, Martin, where found you this?" So I told her; and though my words were lame and halting I think she guessed somewhat of the agony of that hour, for I felt her hand touch my shoulder like a caress.
"Death's shadow hath been over us of late, Martin," says she, "and hath made us wiser methinks."
"Death?" says I, "'Tis mayhap but the beginning of a greater life wherein shall be no more partings, I pray."
"'Tis a sweet thought, Martin!"
"And you have never feared death!" says I.
"Aye, but I do, Martin—I do!" cries she. "I am grown craven these days, mayhap—"
"Yet you sought death."
"Because there was no other way, Martin. But when Death clutched at me from those black depths I agonised for life."
"Is life then—become so—sweet to you, Damaris?"
"Yes, Martin!" says she softly.
"Since when?" I questioned, "Since when?" But instead of answering she falls a-singing softly and keeping her back to me; thus I saw that she had set the pin back in her hair, whereat I grew all suddenly and beyond reason glad. Though indeed the thing accorded but ill with her fine gown, as I told her forthwith.
"Think you so, Martin?" says she gravely, but with a dimple in her cheek.
"I do! 'Tis manifestly out of keeping with your 'broideries, your pleats, tags, lappets, pearl-buttons, galoons and the rest on't."
"'Twould almost seem you do not like me thus," says she frowning down at her finery but with the dimple showing plainer than ever.
"Why truly," says I, stooping to take up the jewelled comb where it lay, "I liked your ragged gown better."
"Because your own clothes are so worn and sorry, sir. 'Tis time you had better, I must see to it—"
"Nay, never trouble!"
"'Twill be joy!" says she sweetly, but setting her chin at me. "And then—good lack, your hair, Martin!"
"What of it?"
"All elf-lox. And then, your beard!"
"What o' my beard?"
"So wild and shaggy! And 'tis so completely out o' the mode."
"Mode?" says I, frowning.
"Mode, Martin. Your spade beard was, then came your dagger or stiletto and now—"
"Hum!" says I, "It may be your broadsword or half-pike for aught I care. But as to yon gown—"
"Alas, poor thing! 'Twill soon look worn and ragged as you can wish, Martin. I have already lost three pearl studs, and should grieve for them were there not a coffer full of better that I wot of. O Martin, when I think of all these wonders, these great diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, pearls and rubies—I do tingle!"
"And can these toys so please you?" says I.
"Yes!" cries she, "Yes, and so would they any other that was not a stock or a stone or—Martin Conisby who is above such vanities!"
"Vanities indeed!" says I, "In this wilderness more especially."
"How if we should find the world again?"
"Hum!" says I. "But this powder and shot now—"
"Pho!" cries she, and stamping her foot turns her back on me. "Here am I yearning to show you all these hidden marvels, Martin, but I never will until you beg me—no, never! And now 'tis time you took your medicine."
"What medicine?" I questioned, wondering.
"'Tis a soothing draught I have decocted from some of my simples—it will make you sleep."
"But I have no mind to sleep!"
"'Tis why you must drink your potion."
"Never in this world!" says I, mighty determined.
"Why yes you will, dear Martin," says she gently, but setting her dimpled chin at me. "I'll go fetch it." And away she goes forthwith and is presently back bearing an embossed cup (like unto a little porringer) and of gold curiously ornamented.
"Here is a noble cup!" says I.
"In these secret caves, Martin, is nothing that is not beautiful. The walls are all hung with rich arras, the floors adorned with marvellous rugs and carpets. And there are many pictures excellent well painted. Pirate and wicked as he was, Black Bartlemy understood and loved beautiful things."
"Aye, he did so!" says I, scowling.
"And amongst these pictures is one of himself."
"How should you know this?"
"Because, were you shaven, Martin, this might pass for picture of you, though to be sure your expression is different—except when you scowl as you do now, sir. Come, take your medicine like a good Martin!" And here she sets the cup to my lips.
"No!" says I.
"Yes, Martin! 'Tis sleep you need, and sleep you shall have. For indeed I do long to hear you at work again and whistling. So drink it for my sake, Martin! Indeed, 'tis none so very bitter!"
So in the end I swallowed the stuff to be done with it. And in a while (sure enough) I grew drowsy, and limping into the cave, stared to behold my bed no longer a heap of bracken but a real bed with sheets and pillows, such indeed as I had not slept in for many a long day. Thus, instead of throwing myself down all dressed, as I had been minded, I laid aside my rough clothes lest they soil this dainty gear, and, getting into bed, joyed in the feel of these cool, white sheets, and closing my eyes, fell to dreamless slumber.
I awoke late next morning to find my clothes clean gone and others in their place; but garments these whose like I had never seen. For here were purple breeches be-laced and ribbanded at the knee and buttoning there with great gold buttons (six a side), and each set with a great pearl; a fine cambric shirt; a doublet cut in at the waist with gold-braided lappets, the sleeves slashed and very wide and turned up at the wrists with point-lace, and this wondrous garment fastening in front with many gold buttons all set with goodly pearls; so that I judged this coat to be a very fortune in itself. Besides this I found a great lace collar or falling band, a pair of silk stockings, shoes with gold buckles set with diamonds, and a great penthouse of a hat adorned with a curling feather fastened by a diamond brooch; whiles hard by was an embroidered shoulder-belt carrying a long rapier, its guards and quillons of wrought gold, its pommel flaming with great brilliants. Beholding all of which gauds and fopperies, I vowed I'd none of them, and cowering beneath the sheets fell to shouting and hallooing for my lady; but finding this vain, scowled at these garments instead. They were of a fashion such as I remembered my father had worn; and now as I gazed on them a strange fancy took me to learn how I (that had gone so long half-naked and in rags) might feel in such sumptuous apparel. So up I got and dressed forthwith, and found this a matter of no small difficulty, what with the unfamiliar shape of these garments and their numberless points and buttons. Howbeit 'twas done at last, and now, coming without the cave, there was my lady upon her three-legged stool preparing breakfast. Beholding me she stared wide-eyed for a moment, then rose, smiling roguishly, and sank down in a slow and gracious curtsey.
"Good morrow to your lordship," says she. "Your lordship called, I think, but I could not answer your lordship's shouts since I was busied preparing your lordship's breakfast."
Now beholding all the sweet and roguish witchery of her, the sun so bright and the world about us so joyous, what could I do but smile and, sweeping off my great hat, make her as deep and profound a reverence as ever was seen at Whitehall or Versailles.
"Madame," quoth I, "your ladyship's most humble and very obedient servant. I trust your ladyship hath breakfast ready, for of a truth my magnificence is mighty sharp set."
"O Martin," cries she, clapping her hands, "I vow 'twas most gallant! It needeth but for you to trim your hair and beard—no, I think I will have you clean-shaven, 'twill mind me of the boyish Martin of years ago! Yes, you shall shave—"
"Shave!" quoth I, staring like any fool.
"Yes, Martin, I have all things ready. Come, it shall not take you long, we will breakfast when you are shaved and trimmed." So, willy-nilly, she brings me back to the cave and presently comes bearing a gold-mounted box, wherein lay razors with soap and everything needful to a fine gentleman's toilet. Then she sets before me a gold-framed mirror, and taking a pair of scissors at her bidding I began to clip the hair from my face, but so bungled the business that she presently took the scissors and did it for me. Thereafter I shaved (awkwardly enough, and she mighty anxious lest I cut myself—the which I did!) and, having at last washed and dried my face, I stood all amazed to find myself so much younger-looking. Now, seeing how she stared at me, and with rosy lips all a-quiver, I smiled, then wondered to behold her eyes suddenly a-brim with tears.
"O Martin, you do look the same Martin after all!" says she and so away into the sunshine; yet when I presently joined her I found her blithe enough.
"Are you hungry, sir?"
"Ravenous, my lady!"
"Why then, here we have broiled fish—caught by my ladyship—salt, Martin! Butter—churned by my ladyship—and—bread, Martin! Bread baked by my ladyship's own two hands."
"O marvellous, sweet lady!" says I.
"And 'tis none so ill though I had no yeast, is it, Martin?"
"Delicious!" says I, my mouth full.
And now, all our recent woes and sorrows clean forgotten, a right joyous meal had we; our hearts light as the sweet air that breathed around us, and untroubled as the placid ocean and broad serenity of heaven, with no dark shadow anywhere to warn us of those evils to come. Thus we ate and talked, finding joy in everything. Often my fingers must go to feel my smooth cheeks and chin, and she, catching me, must needs laugh and vow a smooth face suited me well, and that I should be handsome were my nose another shape and my eyes a different colour. Thus (as I say) brooding sorrow seemed clean vanished from my world, so that my heart swelled with gratitude for that I should live to breathe the air she made sweet.
Breakfast done, I fetched my saw, and despite her remonstrances and my resplendent breeches, forthwith set about making a cupboard; vowing I was well again, that I never felt better, etc. Hereupon, finding me set on it, she presently brings me the following, viz., an excellent new saw, divers chisels of goodly edge, a plane, a hammer, an auger and an adze; the which rejoiced me greatly, more especially the adze, the which is an exceeding useful tool in skilled hands. All these she had brought from the secret store and I mighty grateful therefor, and told her so.
"Why then, Martin," says she, "if your gratitude be real and true, you shall do somewhat for me—"
"What you will!" says I eagerly.
"Nay," she laughed, "'tis no more than this—keep you shaved—henceforth."
And so it was agreed.
OF THE VOICE THAT SANG ON DELIVERANCE SANDS
If clothes be the outward and visible (albeit silent) expression of a man, his tastes and certain attitudes of his mind, yet have they of themselves a mighty influence on their wearer, being, as it were, an inspiration to him in degree more or less.
And this is truth I will maintain let say who will to the contrary, since 'tis so my experience teacheth me.
Hitherto my ragged shirt, my rough leathern jerkin and open-kneed sailor's breeches had been a constant reminder of the poor, desperate rogue I had become, my wild hair and shaggy beard evidences of slavedom. Thus I had been indeed what I had seemed in looks, a rude, ungentle creature expectant of scorns and ill-usage and therefore very prone to fight and quarrel, harsh-tongued, bitter of speech, and in all circumstances sullen, ungoverned and very desperate.
But now, seeing myself thus gently dight, my wild hair tamed by comb and scissors, there grew within me a new respect for my manhood, so that, little by little, those evils that slavery had wrought slipped from me. Thus, though I still laboured at my carpentry and such business as was to do, yet the fine linen rolled high above my scarred and knotted arm put me to the thought that I was no longer the poor, wild wretch full of despairing rage against Fate her cruel dealings, but rather a man gently born and therefore one who must endure all things as uncomplainingly as might be, and one moreover who, to greater or less degree, was master of his own fate.
And now came Hope, that most blessed and beneficent spirit that lifteth the fallen from the slough, that bindeth up the broken heart, that cheereth the sad and downcast and maketh the oft-defeated bold and courageous to attempt Fortune yet again.
O thou that we call Hope, thou sweet, bright angel of God! Without thee life were an evil unendurable, with thee for companion gloomy Doubt, sullen Fear and dark Despair flee utterly away, and we, bold-hearted, patient and undismayed by any dangers or difficulties, may realise our dreams at last. O sweet, strong angel of God, with thee to companion us all things are possible!
Thus every morning came Hope to greet me on my waking, and I, forgetting the futile past, began to look forward to a future more glorious than I had ever dreamed; so I, from a sullen rogue full of black humours, grew to know again the joy of laughter and put off my ungracious speech and ways with my rough attire. Though how much the change thus wrought in me was the work of my sweet comrade these pages, I do think, will show.
As for my lady she, very quick to mark this change, grew ever the more kind and trusting, sharing with me all her doubts and perplexities; thus, did some problem vex her, she must come to me, biting her pretty lips and her slender brows wrinkled, to ask my advice.
At this time (and at her suggestion) I builded a fireplace and oven within our third or inmost cave (that was by turns her larder, stillroom, dairy and kitchen) and with a chimney to carry off the smoke the which I formed of clay and large pebbles, and found it answer very well. Thus, what with those things I contrived and others she brought from her treasure-house (the secret whereof she kept mighty close) we lacked for nothing to our comfort, even as Adam had promised in his letter. Moreover, I was very well armed both for offence and defence, for, one by one, she brought me the following pieces, viz., a Spanish helmet, inlaid with gold and very cumbersome; a back and breast of fine steel of proof; four wheel-lock arquebuses, curiously chased and gilded, with shot and powder for the same; three brace of pistols, gold-mounted and very accurate; and what with these, my sword, axe, and trusty knife, I felt myself capable to drive away any should dare molest us, be he Indian, buccaneer or pirate, as I told her.
"Aye but," says she, "whiles you fought for our lives what must I be doing?"
"Lying secure within your secret treasure-house."
"Never!" says she, setting her chin at me, "O never, Martin; since I am your comrade my place must be beside you."
"'Twould but distress me and spoil my shooting."
"Why then, my aim should be truer, Martin. Come now, teach me how to use gun and pistol."
So then and there I fetched a pistol and one of the arquebuses and showed her their manage, namely—how to hold them, to level, sight, etc. Next I taught her how to charge them, how to wad powder and then shot lest the ball roll out of the barrel; how having primed she must be careful ever to close the pan against the priming being blown away. All of the which she was mighty quick to apprehend. Moreover, I took care to keep all my firearms cleaned and loaded, that I might be ready for any disturbers of our peace.