With a cry the old man knelt on the floor beside the body of Erris Boyne.
DYCK IN PRISON
When Dyck Calhoun waked, he was in the hands of the king's constables, arrested for the murder of Erris Boyne. It was hard to protest his innocence, for the landlord was ready to swear concerning a quarrel he had seen when he opened the door for a moment. Dyck, with sudden caution, only said he would make all clear at the trial.
Dublin and Ireland were shocked and thrilled; England imagined she had come upon one of the most violent episodes of Irish history. One journal protested that it was not possible to believe in Dyck Calhoun's guilt; that his outward habits were known to all, and were above suspicion, although he had collogued—though never secretly, so far as the world knew—with some of the advanced revolutionary spirits. None of the loyal papers seemed aware of Erris Boyne's treachery; and while none spoke of him with approval, all condemned his ugly death.
Driven through the streets of Dublin in a jaunting-car between two of the king's police, Dyck was a mark for abuse by tongue, but was here and there cheered by partizans of the ultra-loyal group to which his father adhered. The effect of his potations was still upon him, and his mind was bemused. He remembered the quarrel, Boyne's explanation, and the subsequent drinking, but he could recall nothing further. He was sure the wine had been drugged, but he realized that Swinton, the landlord, would have made away with any signs of foul play, as he was himself an agent of active disloyalty and a friend of Erris Boyne. Dyck could not believe he had killed Boyne; yet Boyne had been found with a wound in his heart, and his own naked sword lying beside him on the table. The trouble was he could not absolutely swear innocence of the crime.
The situation was not eased by his stay in jail. It began with a revelation terribly repugnant to him. He had not long been lodged in the cell when there came a visit from Michael Clones, who stretched out his hands in an agony of humiliation.
"Ah, you didn't do it—you didn't do it, sir!" he cried. "I'm sure you never killed him. It wasn't your way. He was for doing you harm if he could. An evil man he was, as all the world knows. But there's one thing that'll be worse than anything else to you. You never knew it, and I never knew it till an hour ago. Did you know who Erris Boyne was? Well, I'll tell you. He was the father of Miss Sheila Llyn. He was divorced by Mrs. Llyn many years ago, for having to do with other women. She took to her maiden name, and he married again.
"Good God! Good God!" Dyck Calhoun made a gesture of horror. "He Sheila Llyn's father! Good God!"
Suddenly a passion of remorse roused him out of his semi-stupefaction.
"Michael, Michael!" he said, his voice hoarse, broken. "Don't say such a thing! Are you sure?" Michael nodded.
"I'm sure. I got it from one that's known Erris Boyne and his first wife and girl—one that was a servant to them both in past days. He's been down to Limerick to see Mrs. Llyn and the beautiful daughter. I met him an hour ago, and he told me. He told me more. He told me Mrs. Llyn spoke to him of your friendship with Erris Boyne, and how she meant to tell you who and what he was. She said her daughter didn't even know her father's name. She had been kept in ignorance."
Dyck seated himself on the rough bed of the cell, and stared at Michael, his hands between his knees, his eyes perturbed.
"Michael," he said at last, "if it's true—what you've told me—I don't see my way. Every step in front of me is black. To tell the whole truth is to bring fresh shame upon Mrs. Llyn and her daughter, and not to tell the whole truth is to take away my one chance of getting out of this trouble. I see that!"
"I don't know what you mean, sir, but I'll tell you this—none that knows you would believe you'd murder Erris Boyne or anny other man."
Dyck wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"I suppose you speak the truth, Michael, but it isn't people who've known me that'll try me; and I can't tell all."
"Why not, if it'll help you?"
"I can't—of course I can't. It would be disgrace eternal."
"Why? Tell me why, sir!"
Dyck looked closely, firmly, at the old servant and friend. Should he tell the truth—that Boyne had tried to induce him to sell himself to the French, to invoke his aid against the English government, to share in treason? If he could have told it to anybody, he would have done so to Michael; but if it was true that in his drunken blindness he had killed Boyne, he would not seek to escape by proving Boyne a traitor.
He believed Boyne was a servant of the French; but unless the facts came out in the trial, they should not have sure origin in himself. He would not add to his crime in killing the father of the only girl who had ever touched his heart, the shame of proving that father to be one who should have been shot as a traitor.
He had courage and daring, but not sufficient to carry him through that dark chapter. He would not try to save himself by turning public opinion against Erris Boyne. The man had been killed by some one, perhaps—and the thing ached in his heart—by himself; but that was no reason why the man's death should not be full punishment for all the wrong he had done.
Dyck had a foolish strain in him, after all. Romance was his deadly foe; it made him do a stupid, if chivalrous, thing. Meanwhile he would warn the government at once about the projected French naval raid.
"Michael," said Dyck, rising again, "see my father, but you're not to say I didn't kill Boyne, for, to tell the truth, I don't know. My head"— he put his hand to it with a gesture of despair—"my head's a mass of contradictions. It seems a thousand years since I entered that tavern! I can't get myself level with all that's happened. That Erris Boyne should be the father of the sweet girl at Limerick shakes me. Don't you see what it means? If I killed him, it spoils everything—everything. If I didn't kill him, I can only help myself by blackening still more the life of one who gave being to—"
"Aye, to a young queen!" interrupted Michael.
"God knows, there's none like her in Ireland, or in any other country at all!"
Suddenly Dyck regained his composure; and it was the composure of one who had opened the door of hell and had realized that in time—perhaps not far off—he also would dwell in the infernal place.
"Michael, I have no money, but I'm my father's heir. My father will not see me starve in prison, nor want for defence, though my attitude shall be 'no defence.' So bring me decent food and some clothes, and send to me here Will McCormick, the lawyer. He's as able a man as there is in Dublin. Listen, Michael, you're not to speak of Mrs. Llyn and Miss Llyn as related to Erris Boyne. What will come of what you and I know and don't know, Heaven only has knowledge; but I'll see it through. I've spoiled as good chances as ever a young man had that wants to make his way; but drink and cards, Michael, and the flare of this damned life at the centre—it got hold of me. It muddled, drowned the best that was in me. It's the witch's kitchen, is Dublin. Ireland's the only place in the world where they make saints of criminals and pray to them; where they lose track of time and think they're in eternity; where emotion is saturnine logic and death is the touchstone of life. Michael, I don't see any way to safety. Those fellows down at the tavern were friends of Erris Boyne. They're against me. They'll hang me if they can!"
"I don't believe they can do it, master. Dublin and Ireland think more of you than they did of Erris Boyne. There's nothing behind you except the wildness of youth—nothing at all. If anny one had said to me at Playmore that you'd do the things you've done with drink and cards since you come to Dublin,
"I'd have swore they were liars. Yet when all's said and done, I'd give my last drop of blood as guarantee you didn't kill Erris Boyne!"
Dyck smiled. "You've a lot of faith in me, Michael—but I'll tell you this—I never was so thirsty in my life. My mouth's like a red-hot iron. Send me some water. Give the warder sixpence, if you've got it, and send me some water. Then go to Will McCormick, and after that to my father."
Michael shook his head dolefully.
"Mr. McCormick's aisy—oh, aisy enough," he said. "He'll lep up at the idea of defendin' you, but I'm not takin' pleasure in goin' to Miles Calhoun, for he's a hard man these days. Aw, Mr. Dyck, he's had a lot of trouble. Things has been goin' wrong with Playmore. 'Pon honour, I don't know whether anny of it'll last as long as Miles Calhoun lasts. There'll be little left for you, Mr. Dyck. That's what troubles me. I tell you it'd break my heart if that place should be lost to your father and you. I was born on it. I'd give the best years of the life that's left me to make sure the old house could stay in the hands of the Calhouns. I say to you that while I live all I am is yours, fair and foul, good and bad." He touched his breast with his right hand. "In here is the soul of Ireland that leps up for the things that matter. There's a song—but never mind about a song; this is no place for songs. It's a prison-house, and you're a prisoner charged—"
"Not charged yet, not charged," interrupted Dyck; "but suspected of and arrested for a crime. I'll fight—before God, I'll fight to the last! Good-bye, Michael; bring me food and clothes, and send me cold water at once."
When the door closed softly behind Michael Clones, Dyck sat down on the bed where many a criminal patriot had lain. He looked round the small room, bare, unfurnished, severe-terribly severe; he looked at the blank walls and the barred window, high up; he looked at the floor—it was discoloured and damp. He reached out and touched it with his hand. He looked at the solitary chair, the basin and pail, and he shuddered.
"How awful—how awful!" he murmured. "But if it was her father, and if I killed him"—his head sank low—"if I killed her father!"
He looked up. It was the guard with a tin of water and a dipper.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
"I don't believe he's guilty, mother."
The girl's fine eyes shone with feeling—with protest, indignation, anguish. As she spoke, she thrust her head forward with the vigour of a passionate counsel. Sheila Llyn was a champion who would fight to the last gasp for any cause she loved.
A few moments before, she had found her mother, horror-stricken, gazing at a newspaper paragraph sent from Dublin.
Sheila at once thought this to be the cause of her mother's agitation, and she reached out a hand for it. Her mother hesitated, then handed the clipping to her. Fortunately it contained no statement save the bare facts connected with the killing of Erris Boyne, and no reference to the earlier life of the dead man. It said no more than that Dyck Calhoun must take his trial at the sessions.
It also stated that Dyck, though he pleaded "not guilty," declared frankly, through Will McCormick, the lawyer, that he had no memory of aught that happened after he had drunk wine given him by Erris Boyne. He said that he and Boyne had quarrelled, but had become reconciled again, and that the drink was a pledge of their understanding. From the time he had taken the drink until he waked in the hands of the king's constables, he had no memory; but he was sure he had not killed Boyne. The fact that there was no blood on his sword was evidence. Nevertheless, he had been committed for trial.
Mrs. Llyn was sorely troubled. She knew of her daughter's interest in Dyck Calhoun, and of Dyck's regard for Sheila. She had even looked forward to marriage, and she wished for Sheila no better fate, because nearly all she knew of Dyck was to his credit. She was unaware that his life in Dublin had been dissipated.
If Dyck was guilty—though she could not believe it—there would be an end of romance between him and Sheila, and their friendship must be severed for ever. Her daughter did not know that Erris Boyne was her father, and she must not know—in any case not yet; but if Dyck was condemned, it was almost sure he would be hanged.
She wondered about Boyne's widow, whose name did not appear in the paragraph she had seen. She knew that Noreen was beautiful, but that he had married far beneath him socially. She had imagined Erris Boyne living in suburban quiet, not drawing his wife into his social scheme.
That is what had happened. The woman had lived apart from the daily experiences of her husband's life in Dublin; and it had deepened her bitterness against him. When she had learned that Erris Boyne was no more faithful to her than he had been to his previous wife, she had gone mad; and Dyck Calhoun was paying the price of her madness.
Mrs. Llyn did not know this. She was a woman of distinguished bearing, though small, with a wan, sad look in her eyes always, but with a cheerful smile. She was not poor, but well-to-do, and it was not necessary to deny herself or her daughter ordinary comforts, and even many of the luxuries of life.
Her hair was darker than her daughter's, black and wavy, with here and there streaks of grey. These, however, only added dignity to a head beautifully balanced, finely moulded, and, in the language of the day, most genteelly hung. She was slender, buoyant in movement yet composed, and her voice was like her daughter's, clear, gentle, thrilling.
Her mind and heart were given up to Sheila and Sheila's future. That was why a knowledge of the tragedy that had come to Dyck Calhoun troubled her as she had not been troubled since the day she first learned of Erris Boyne's infidelity to herself.
"Let us go to Dublin, mother," said Sheila with a determined air, after reading the clipping.
"Why, my dear?"
The woman's eyes, with their long lashes, looked searchingly into her daughter's face. She felt, as the years went on, that Sheila had gifts granted to few. She realized that the girl had resources which would make her a governing influence in whatever sphere of life she should be set. Quietly, Sheila was taking control of their movements, and indeed of her own daily life. The girl had a dominating skill which came in part from herself, and also to a degree from her father; but her disposition was not her father's-it was her mother's.
Mrs. Llyn had never known Sheila to lie or twist the truth in all her days. No one was more obedient to wise argument; and her mother had a feeling that now, perhaps, the time had come when they two must have a struggle for mastery. There was every reason why they should not go to Dublin. There Sheila might discover that Erris Boyne was her father, and might learn the story of her mother's life.
Sheila had been told by her mother that her father had passed away abroad when she was a little child. She had never seen her father's picture, and her mother had given her the impression that their last days together had not been happy. She had always felt that it was better not to inquire too closely into her father's life.
The years had gone on and then had come the happy visit to Loyland Towers, where she had met Dyck Calhoun. Her life at that moment had been free from troublesome emotions; but since the time she had met Dyck at the top of the hill, a new set of feelings worked in her.
She was as bonny a lass as ever the old world produced—lithe, with a body like that of a boy, strong and pleasant of face, with a haunting beauty in the eyes, a majesty of the neck and chin, and a carriage which had made Michael Clones call her a queen.
She saw Dyck only as, a happy, wild son of the hilltop. To her he was a man of mettle and worth, and irresponsible because he had been given no responsibility. He was a country gentleman of Ireland, with all the interest and peril of the life of a country gentleman.
"Yes, we ought to go to Dublin, mother. We could help him, perhaps," Sheila insisted.
The mother shook her head mournfully.
"My child, we could do him no good at all—none whatever. Besides, I can't afford to visit Dublin now. It's an expensive journey, and the repairs we've been doing here have run me close."
A look of indignation, almost of scorn, came into the girl's face.
"Well, if I were being tried for my life, as Dyck Calhoun is going to be, and if I knew that friends of mine were standing off because of a few pounds, shillings, and pence, I think I'd be a real murderer!"
The mother took her daughter's hand. She found it cold.
"My dear," she said, clasping it gently, "you never saw him but three times, and I've never seen him but twice except in the distance; but I would do anything in my power to help him, if I could, for I like him. The thing for us to do—"
"Yes, I know—sit here, twist our thumbs, and do nothing!"
"What more could we do if we went to Dublin, except listen to gossip, read the papers and be jarred every moment? My dear, our best place is here. If the spending of money could be of any use to him, I'd spend it —indeed I would; but since it can't be of any use, we must stay in our own home. Of one thing I'm sure—if Dyck Calhoun killed Erris Boyne, Boyne deserved it. Of one thing I'm certain beyond all else—it was no murder. Mr. Calhoun wasn't a man to murder any one. I don't believe"— her voice became passionate—"he murdered, and I don't believe he will be hanged."
The girl looked at her mother with surprise. "Oh, dearest, dearest!" she said. "I believe you do care for him. Is it because he has no mother, and you have no son."
"It may be so, beloved."
Sheila swept her arms around her mother's neck and drew the fine head to her breast.
At that moment they heard the clatter of hoofs, and presently they saw a horse and rider pass the window.
"It's a government messenger, mother," Sheila said.
As Sheila said, it was a government messenger, bearing a packet to Mrs. Llyn—a letter from her brother in America, whom she had not seen for many years.
The brother, Bryan Llyn, had gone out there as a young man before the Revolutionary War. He had prospered, taking sides against England in the war, and become a man of importance in the schemes of the new republican government. Only occasionally had letters come from him to his sister, and for nearly eleven years she had not had a single word from him.
When she opened the packet now, she felt it would help to solve—she knew not how—the trouble between herself and her daughter. The letter had been sent to a firm in Dublin with which Bryan Llyn had done business, with instructions that it should be forwarded to his sister. It had reached the hands of a government official, who was a brother of a member of the firm, and he had used the government messenger, who was going upon other business to Limerick, to forward it with a friendly covering note, which ended with the words:
The recent tragedy you have no doubt seen in the papers must have shocked you; but to those who know the inside the end was inevitable, though there are many who do not think Calhoun is guilty. I am one of them. Nevertheless, it will go hard with him, as the evidence is strong against him. He comes from your part of the country, and you will be concerned, of course.
Sheila watched her mother reading, and saw that great emotion possessed her, though the girl could not know the cause. Presently, however, Mrs. Llyn, who had read the letter from her brother, made a joyful exclamation.
"What is it, mother dear?" Sheila asked eagerly. "Tell me!"
The mother made a passionate gesture of astonishment and joy; then she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, with the letter—which was closely written, in old-fashioned punctiliousness—in her hands.
"Oh, my dear, my dear!" she said. "How strange it all is! Your Uncle Bryan is immensely rich. He has no children and no family; his health is failing."
She seemed able to get no further.
"Well, what is it, mother?" asked Sheila again.
For an instant Mrs. Llyn hesitated; then she put the letter into Sheila's hands.
"Read it, my child," she said. "It's for you as much as for me—indeed, more for you than for me." Sheila took the letter. It ran as follows:
It is eleven years since I wrote to you, and yet, though it may seem strange, there have not been eleven days in all that time in which I have not wished you and Sheila were here. Sheila—why, she is a young woman! She's about the age you were when I left Ireland, and you were one of the most beautiful and charming creatures God ever gave life to. The last picture I have of you was a drawing made soon after your marriage—sad, bad, unhappy incident. I have kept it by me always. It warms my heart in winter; it cools my eyes in summer.
My estate is neither North nor South, but farther South than North. In a sense it is always summer, but winter on my place would be like summer in Norway—just bitingly fresh, happily alert. I'm writing in the summer now. I look out of the window and see hundreds of acres of cotton-fields, with hundreds upon hundreds of negroes at work. I hear the songs they sing, faint echoes of them, even as I write. Yes, my black folk do sing, because they are well treated.
Not that we haven't our troubles here. You can't administer thousands of acres, control hundreds of slaves, and run an estate like a piece of clockwork without creaks in the machinery. I've built it all up out of next to nothing. I landed in this country with my little fortune of two thousand pounds. This estate is worth at least a quarter of a million now. I've an estate in Jamaica, too. I took it for a debt. What it'll be worth in another twenty years I don't know. I shan't be here to see. I'm not the man I was physically, and that's one of the reasons why I'm writing to you to-day. I've often wished to write and say what I'm going to say now; but I've held back, because I wanted you to finish your girl's education before I said it
What I say is this: I want you and Sheila to come here to me, to make my home your home, to take control of my household, and to let me see faces I love about me as the shadows enfold me.
Like your married life, mine was unsuccessful, but not for the same reason. The woman I married did not understand—probably could not understand. She gave me no children. We are born this way, or that. To understand is pain and joy in one; to misconceive is to scatter broken glass for bare feet. Yet when I laid her away, a few years ago, I had terrible pangs of regret, which must come to the heart that has striven in vain. I did my best; I tried to make her understand, but she never did. I used at first to feel angry; then I became patient. But I waked up again, and went smiling along, active, vigorous, getting pleasure out of the infinitely small things, and happy in perfecting my organization.
This place, which I have called Moira, is to be yours—or, rather, Sheila's. So, in any case, you will want to come and see the home I have made this old colonial mansion, with its Corinthian pillars and verandah, high steps, hard-wood floors polished like a pan, every room hung in dimity and chintz, and the smell of fruit and flowers everywhere. You will want to see it all, and you'll want to live here.
There's little rain here, so it's not like Ireland, and the green is not so green; but the flowers are marvellously bright, and the birds sing almost as well as they sing in Ireland, though there's no lark. Strange it is, but true, the only things that draw me back to Ireland in my soul are you, and Sheila, whom I've never seen, and the lark singing as he rises until he becomes a grey-blue speck, and then vanishing in the sky.
Well, you and the lark have sung in my heart these many days, and now you must come to me, because I need you. I have placed to your credit in the Bank of Ireland a thousand pounds. That will be the means of bringing you here—you and Sheila—to my door, to Moira. Let nothing save death prevent your coming. As far as Sheila's eye can see-north, south, east, and west—the land will be hers when I'm gone. Dearest sister, sell all things that are yours, and come to me. You'll not forget Ireland here. Whoever has breathed her air can never forget the hills and dells, the valleys and bogs, the mountains, with their mists of rain, the wild girls, with their bare ankles, their red petticoats, and their beautiful, reckless air. None who has ever breathed the air of Ireland can breathe in another land without memory of the ancient harp of Ireland. But it is as a memory-deep, wonderful, and abiding, yet a memory. I sometimes think I have forgotten, and then I hear coming through this Virginia the notes of some old Irish melody, the song of some wayfarer of Mayo or Connemara, and I know then that Ireland is persuasive and perpetual; but only as a memory, because it speaks in every pulse and beats in every nerve.
Oh, believe me, I speak of what I know! I have been away from Ireland for a long time, and I'm never going back, but I'll bring Ireland to me. Come here, colleen, come to Virginia. Write to me, on the day you get this letter, that you're coming soon. Let it be soon, because I feel the cords binding me to my beloved fields growing thinner. They'll soon crack, but, please God, they won't crack before you come here.
Now with my love to you and Sheila I stretch out my hand to you. Take it. All that it is has worked for is yours; all that it wants is you.
Your loving brother,
As Sheila read, the tears started from her eyes; and at last she could read no longer, so her mother took the letter and read the rest of it aloud. When she had finished, there was silence—a long warm silence; then, at last, Mrs. Llyn rose to her feet.
"Sheila, when shall we go?"
With frightened eyes Sheila sprang up.
"I said we must go to Dublin!" she murmured.
"Yes, we will go to Dublin, Sheila, but it will be on our way to Uncle Bryan's home."
Sheila caught her mother's hands.
"Mother," she said, after a moment of hesitation, "I must obey you."
"It is the one way, my child-the one thing to do. Some one in prison calls—perhaps; some one far away who loves you, and needs us, calls— that we know. Tell me, am I not right? I ask you, where shall we go?"
"To Virginia, mother."
The girl's head dropped, and her eyes filled with tears.
DYCK'S FATHER VISITS HIM
In vain Dyck's lawyer, Will McCormick, urged him to deny absolutely the killing of Erris Boyne. Dyck would not do so. He had, however, immediately on being jailed, written to the government, telling of the projected invasion of Ireland by the French fleet, and saying that it had come to him from a sure source. The government had at once taken action.
Regarding the death of Boyne, the only thing in his favour was that his own sword-point was free from stain. His lawyer made the utmost of this, but to no avail. The impression in the court was that both men had been drinking; that they had quarrelled, and that without a duel being fought Dyck had killed his enemy.
That there had been no duel was clear from the fact that Erris Boyne's sword was undrawn. The charge, however, on the instigation of the Attorney-General, who was grateful for the information about France, had been changed from murder to manslaughter; though it seemed clear that Boyne had been ruthlessly killed by a man whom he had befriended.
On one of the days of the trial, Dyck's father, bowed, morose, and obstinate, came to see him. That Dyck and Boyne had quarrelled had been stated in evidence by the landlord, Swinton, and Dyck had admitted it. Miles Calhoun was bent upon finding what the story of the quarrel was; for his own lawyer had told him that Dyck's refusal to give the cause of the dispute would affect the jury adversely, and might bring him imprisonment for life. After the formalities of their meeting, Miles Calhoun said:
"My son, things are black, but they're not so black they can't be brightened. If you killed Erris Boyne, he deserved it. He was a bad man, as the world knows. That isn't the point. Now, there's only one kind of quarrel that warrants non-disclosure."
"You mean about a woman?" remarked Dyck coldly.
The old man took a pinch of snuff nervously. "That's what I mean. Boyne was older than you, and perhaps you cut him out with a woman."
A wry smile wrinkled the corners of Dyck's mouth. "You mean his wife?" he asked with irony. "Wife—no!" retorted the old man. "Damn it, no! He wasn't the man to remain true to his wife."
"So I understand," remarked Dyck; "but I don't know his wife. I never saw her, except at the trial, and I was so sorry for her I ceased to be sorry for my self. She had a beautiful, strange, isolated face."
"But that wouldn't influence Boyne," was the reply. "His first wife had a beautiful and interesting face, but it didn't hold him. He went marauding elsewhere, and she divorced him by act of parliament. I don't think you knew it, but his first wife was one of your acquaintances— Mrs. Llyn, whose daughter you saw just before we left Playmore. He wasn't particular where he made love—a barmaid or a housekeeper, it was all the same to him."
"I hope the daughter doesn't know that Erris Boyne was her father," said Dyck.
"There's plenty can tell her, and she'll hear it sooner or later."
Miles Calhoun looked at his son with dejection.
His eyes wandered over the grimly furnished cell. His nose smelled the damp of it, and suddenly the whole soul of him burst forth.
"You don't give yourself a chance of escape, Dyck You know what Irish juries are. Why don't you tell the truth about the quarrel? What's the good of keeping your mouth shut, when there's many that would profit by your telling it?"
"Who would profit?" asked Dyck.
"Who would profit!" snarled the old man. "Well, you would profit first, for it might break the dark chain of circumstantial evidence. Also, your father would profit. I'd be saved shame, perhaps; I'd get relief from this disgrace. Oh, man, think of others beside yourself!
"Think of others!" said Dyck, and a queer smile lighted his haggard face. "I'd save myself if I honourably could."
"The law must prove you guilty," the old man went on. "It's not for you to prove yourself innocent. They haven't proved you guilty yet."
The old man fumbled with a waistcoat button. His eyes blinked hard.
"You don't see," he continued, "the one thing that's plain to my eyes, and it's this—that your only chance of escape is to tell the truth about the quarrel. If the truth were told, whatever it is, I believe it would be to your credit—I'll say that for you. If it was to your credit, even if they believe you guilty of killing Erris Boyne, they'd touch you lightly. Ah, in the name of the mother you loved, I ask you to tell the truth about that quarrel! Give it into the hands of the jury, and let them decide. Haven't you got a heart in you? In the name of God—"
"Don't speak to me like that," interrupted Dyck, with emotion. "I've thought of all those things. I hold my peace because—because I hold my peace. To speak would be to hurt some one I love with all my soul."
"And you won't speak to save me—your father—because you don't love me with all your soul! Is that it?" asked Miles Calhoun.
"It's different—it's different."
"Ah, it's a woman!"
"Never mind what it is. I will not tell. There are things more shameful than death."
"Yes," snarled the other. "Rather than save yourself, you bring dishonour upon him who gave you birth."
Dyck's face was submerged in colour.
"Father," said he, "on my honour I wouldn't hurt you if I could help it, but I'll not tell the world of the quarrel between that man and myself. My silence may hurt you, but some one else would be hurt far more if I told."
"By God, I think you're some mad dreamer slipped out of the ancient fold! Do you know where you are? You're in jail. If you're found guilty, you'll be sent to prison at least for the years that'll spoil the making of your life; and you do it because you think you'll spare somebody. Well, I ask you to spare me. I don't want the man that's going to inherit my name, when my time comes, to bring foulness on it. We've been a rough race, we Calhouns; we've done mad, bad things, perhaps, but none has shamed us before the world—none but you."
"I have never shamed you, Miles Calhoun," replied his son sharply. "As the ancients said, 'alis volat propriis'—I will fly with my own wings. Come weal, come woe, come dark, come light, I have fixed my mind, and nothing shall change it. You loved my mother better than the rest of the world. You would have thought it no shame to have said so to your own father. Well, I say it to you—I'll stand by what my conscience and my soul have dictated to me. You call me a dreamer. Let it be so. I'm Irish; I'm a Celt. I've drunk deep of all that Ireland means. All that's behind me is my own, back to the shadowy kings of Ireland, who lost life and gave it because they believed in what they did. So will I. If I'm to walk the hills no more on the estate where you are master, let it be so. I have no fear; I want no favour. If it is to be prison, then it shall be prison. If it is to be shame, then let it be shame. These are days when men must suffer if they make mistakes. Well, I will suffer, fearlessly if helplessly, but I will not break the oath which I have taken. And so I will not do it—never—never—never!"
He picked up the cloak which the old man had dropped on the floor, and handed it to him.
"There is no good in staying longer. I must go into court again to-morrow. I have to think how my lawyer shall answer the evidence given."
"But of one thing have you thought?" asked his father. "You will not tell the cause of the quarrel, for the reason that you might hurt somebody. If you don't tell the cause, and you are condemned, won't that hurt somebody even more?"
For a moment Dyck stood silent, absorbed. His face looked pinched, his whole appearance shrivelled. Then, with deliberation, he said:
"This is not a matter of expediency, but of principle. My heart tells me what to do, and my heart has always been right."
There was silence for a long time. At last the old man drew the cloak about his shoulders and turned towards the door.
"Wait a minute, father," said Dyck. "Don't go like that. You'd better not come and see me again. If I'm condemned, go back to Playmore; if I'm set free, go back to Playmore. That's the place for you to be. You've got your own troubles there."
"And you—if you're acquitted?"
"If I'm acquitted, I'll take to the high seas—till I'm cured."
A moment later, without further words, Dyck was alone. He heard the door clang.
He sat for some time on the edge of his bed, buried in dejection. Presently, however, the door opened. "A letter for you, sir," said the jailer.
A LETTER FROM SHEILA
The light of the cell was dim, but Dyck managed to read the letter without great difficulty, for the writing was almost as precise as print. The sight of it caught his heart like a warm hand and pressed it. This was the substance of the letter:
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I have wanted to visit you in prison, but my mother has forbidden it, and so, even if I could be let to enter, I must not disobey her. I have not read the papers giving an account of your trial. I only know you are charged with killing a bad man, notorious in Dublin life, and that many think he got his just deserts in being killed.
I saw Christopher Dogan only a week ago, before we came to Dublin. His eyes, as he talked of you, shone like the secret hill-fires where the peasants make illegal drink.
"Look you," he said to me, "I care not what a jury decides. I know my man; and I also know that if the fellow Boyne died by his hand, it was in fair fight. I have read Dyck Calhoun's story in the stars; and I know what his end will be. It will be fair, not foul; good, not bad; great, not low. Tell him that from me, miss," was what he said.
I also will not believe that your fate is an evil one, that the law will grind you between the millstones of guilt and dishonour; but if the law should call you guilty, I still will not believe. Far away I will think of you, and believe in you, dear, masterful, madman friend. Yes, you are a madman, for Michael Clones told me—faith, he loves you well!—that you've been living a gay life in Dublin since you came here, and that the man you are accused of killing was in great part the cause of it.
I think I never saw my mother so troubled in spirit as she is at this time. Of course, she could not feel as I do about you. It isn't that which makes her sad and haggard; it is that we are leaving Ireland behind.
Yes, she and I are saying good-bye to Ireland. That's why I think she might have let me see you before we went; but since it must not be, well, then, it must not. But we shall meet again. In my soul I know that on the hills somewhere far off, as on the first day we met, we shall meet each other once more. Where are we going? Oh, very far! We are going to my Uncle Bryan—Bryan Llyn, in Virginia. A letter has come from him urging us to make our home with him. You see, my friend—
Then followed the story which Bryan Llyn had told her mother and herself, and she wrote of her mother's decision to go out to the new, great home which her uncle had made among the cotton-fields of the South. When she had finished that part of the tale, she went on as follows:
We shall know your fate only through the letters that will follow us, but I will not believe in your bad luck. Listen to me—why don't you come to America also? Oh, think it over! Don't believe the worst will come. When they release you from prison, innocent and acquitted, cross the ocean and set up your tent under the Stars and Stripes. Think of it! Nearly all those men in America who fought under Washington and won were born in these islands. They took with them to that far land the memory and love of these old homes. You and I would have fought for England and with the British troops, because we detest revolution. Here, in Ireland, we have seen its evils; and yet if we had fought for the Union Jack beyond the mountains of Maine and in the lonely woods, we should, I believe, in the end have said that the freedom fought for by the American States was well won.
So keep this matter in your mind, for my mother and I will soon be gone. She would not let me come to you,—I think I have never seen her so disturbed as when I asked her, and she forbade me to write to you; but I disobey her. Well, this is a sad business. I know my mother has suffered. I know her married life was unhappy, and that her husband—my father-died many a year ago, leaving a dark trail of regret behind him; but, you see, I never knew my father. That was all long ago, and it is a hundred times best forgotten.
Our ship sails for Virginia in three days, and I must go. I will keep looking back to the prison where lies, charged with an evil crime, of which he is not guilty, a young man for whom I shall always carry the spirit of good friendship.
Do not believe all will not go well. Let us keep the courage of our hearts and the faith of our souls—and I hope I always shall! I believe in you, and, believing, I say good-bye. I say farewell in the great hope that somehow, somewhere, we shall help each other on the way of life. God be with you! I am your friend, SHEILA LLYN.
P. S.—I beg you to remember that America is a good place for a young man to live in and succeed.
Dyck read the letter with a wonderful slowness. He realized that by happy accident—it could be nothing else—Mrs. Llyn had been able to keep from her daughter the fact that the man who had been killed in the tavern by the river was her father. It was clear that the girl was kept much to herself, read no newspapers, and saw few people, and that those whom she saw had been careful to hold their peace about her close relationship to Erris Boyne. None but the evil-minded would recall the fact to her.
Sheila's ignorance must not be broken by himself. He had done the right thing—he had held his peace for the girl's sake, and he would hold it to the end. Slowly he folded up the letter, pressed it to his lips, and put it in the pocket over his heart.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Beginning of a lifetime of experience, comedy, and tragedy Wit is always at the elbow of want
By Gilbert Parker
X. DYCK CALHOUN ENTERS THE WORLD AGAIN XI. WHITHER NOW? XII. THE HOUR BEFORE THE MUTINY XIII. TO THE WEST INDIES XIV. IN THE NICK OF TIME XV. THE ADMIRAL HAS HIS SAY
DYCK CALHOUN ENTERS THE WORLD AGAIN
"Is it near the time?" asked Michael Clones of his friend, as they stood in front of the prison.
His companion, who was seated on a stone, wrapped in dark-green coverings faded and worn, and looking pinched with cold in the dour November day, said, without lifting his head:
"Seven minutes, an' he'll be out, God bless him!" "And save him and protect him!" said Michael. "He deserved punishment no more than I did, and it's broke him. I've seen the grey gather at his temples, though he's only been in prison four years. He was condemned to eight, but they've let him free, I don't know why. Perhaps it was because of what he told the government about the French navy. I've seen the joy of life sob itself down to the sour earth. When I took him the news of his father's death, and told him the creditors were swallowing what was left of Playmore, what do you think he did?"
Old Christopher Dogan smiled; his eyes twinkled with a mirth which had more pain than gaiety. "God love you, I know what he did. He flung out his hands, and said: 'Let it go! It's nothing to me.' Michael, have I said true?"
"Almost his very words you've used, and he flung out his hands, as you said.
"Aye, he'll be changed; but they've kept the clothes he had when he went to prison, and he'll come out in them, I'm thinking—"
"Ah, no!" interrupted Michael. "That can't be, for his clothes was stole. Only a week ago he sent to me for a suit of my own. I wouldn't have him wear my clothes—he a gentleman! It wasn't fitting. So I sent him a suit I bought from a shop, but he wouldn't have it. He would leave prison a poor man, as a peasant in peasant's clothes. So he wrote to me. Here is the letter." He drew from his pocket a sheet of paper, and spread it out. "See-read it. Ah, well, never mind," he added, as old Christopher shook his head. "Never mind, I'll read it to you!" Thereupon he read the note, and added: "We'll see him of the Calhouns risin' high beyant poverty and misfortune some day."
Old Christopher nodded.
"I'm glad Miles Calhoun was buried on the hilltop above Playmore. He had his day; he lived his life. Things went wrong with him, and he paid the price we all must pay for work ill-done."
"There you're right, Christopher Dogan, and I remember the day the downfall began. It was when him that's now Lord Mallow, Governor of Jamaica, came to summon Miles Calhoun to Dublin. Things were never the same after that; but I well remember one talk I had with Miles Calhoun just before his death. 'Michael,' he said to me, 'my family have had many ups and downs, and some that bear my name have been in prison before this, but never for killing a man out of fair fight.' 'One of your name may be in prison, sir,' said I, 'but not for killing a man out of fair fight. If you believe he did, there's no death bad enough for you!' He was silent for a while; then at last he whispered Mr. Dyck's name, and said to me: 'Tell him that as a Calhoun I love him, and as his father I love him ten times more. For look you, Michael, though we never ran together, but quarrelled and took our own paths, yet we are both Calhouns, and my heart is warm to him. If my son were a thousand times a criminal, nevertheless I would ache to take him by the hand.'"
"Hush! Look at the prison gate," said his companion, and stood up.
As the gates of the prison opened, the sun broke through the clouds and gave a brilliant phase to the scene. Out of the gates there came slowly, yet firmly, dressed in peasant clothes, the stalwart but faded figure of Dyck Calhoun.
Terribly changed he was. He had entered prison with the flush upon his cheek, the lilt of young manhood in his eyes, with hair black and hands slender and handsome. There was no look of youth in his face now. It was the face of a middle-aged man from which the dew of youth had vanished, into which life's storms had come and gone. Though the body was held erect, yet the head was thrust slightly forward, and the heavy eyebrows were like a pent-house. The eyes were slightly feverish, and round the mouth there crept a smile, half-cynical but a little happy. All freshness was gone from his hands. One hung at his side, listless, corded; the other doffed his hat in reply to the salute of his two humble friends.
As the gates closed behind him he looked gravely at the two men, who were standing not a foot apart. There swept slowly into his eyes, enlarging, brightening them, the glamour of the Celtic soul. Of all Ireland, or all who had ever known him, these two were the only ones welcoming him into the world again! Michael Clones, with his oval red face, big nose, steely eye, and steadfast bearing, had in him the soul of great kings. His hat was set firmly on his head. His knee-breeches were neat, if coarse; his stockings were clean. His feet were well shod, his coat worn, and he had still the look that belongs to the well-to-do peasant. He was a figure of courage and endurance. Dyck's hand went out to him, and a warm smile crept to his lips.
A moisture came to Michael's eyes. He did not speak as he clasped the hand Dyck offered him. Presently Dyck turned to old Christopher with a kindly laugh.
"Well, old friend! You, too, come to see the stag set loose again? You're not many, that's sure." A grim, hard look came into his face, but both hands went out and caught the old man's shoulders affectionately. "This is no day for you to be waiting at prison's gates, Christopher; but there are two men who believe in me—two in all the world. It isn't the killing," he added after a moment's silence—"it isn't the killing that hurts so. If it's true that I killed Erris Boyne, what hurts most is the reason why I killed him."
"One way or another—does it matter now?" asked Christopher gently.
"Is it that you think nothing matters since I've paid the price, sunk myself in shame, lost my friends, and come out with not a penny left?" asked Dyck. "But yes," he added with a smile, wry and twisted, "yes, I have a little left!"
He drew from his pocket four small pieces of gold, and gazed ironically at them in his palm.
"Look at them!" He held out his hand, so that the two men could see the little coins. "Those were taken from me when I entered prison. They've been in the hands of the head of the jail ever since. They give them to me now—all that's left of what I was."
"No, not all, sir," declared Michael. "There's something left from Playmore—there's ninety pounds, and it's in my pocket. It was got from the sale of your sporting-kit. There was the boat upon the lake, the gun, and all kinds of riffraff stuff not sold with Playmore."
Dyck nodded and smiled. "Good Michael!"
Then he drew himself up stiffly, and blew in and out his breath as if with the joy of living. For four hard years he had been denied the free air of free men. Even when walking in the prison-yard, on cold or fair days, when the air was like a knife or when it had the sun of summer in it, it still had seemed to choke him.
In prison he had read, thought, and worked much. They had at least done that for him. The Attorney-General had given him freedom to work with his hands, and to slave in the workshop like one whose living depended on it. Some philanthropic official had started the idea of a workshop, and the officials had given the best of the prisoners a chance to learn trades and make a little money before they went out into the world. All that Dyck had earned went to purchase things he needed, and to help his fellow prisoners or their families.
Where was he now? The gap between the old life of nonchalance, frivolity, fantasy, and excitement was as great as that between heaven and hell. Here he was, after four years of prison, walking the highway with two of the humblest creatures of Ireland, and yet, as his soul said, two of the best.
Stalking along in thought, he suddenly became conscious that Michael and Christopher had fallen behind. He turned round.
"Come on. Come on with me." But the two shook their heads.
"It's not fitting, you a Calhoun of Playmore!" Christopher answered.
"Well, then, list to me," said Dyck, for he saw the men could not bear his new democracy. "I'm hungry. In four years I haven't had a meal that came from the right place or went to the right spot. Is the little tavern, the Hen and Chickens, on the Liffeyside, still going? I mean the place where the seamen and the merchant-ship officers visit."
"Well, look you, Michael—get you both there, and order me as good a meal of fish and chops and baked pudding as can be bought for money. Aye, and I'll have a bottle of red French wine, and you two will have what you like best. Mark me, we'll sit together there, for we're one of a kind. I've got to take to a life that fits me, an ex-jailbird, a man that's been in prison for killing!"
"There's the king's army," said Michael. "They make good officers in it."
A strange, half-sore smile came to Dyck's thin lips.
"Michael," said he, "give up these vain illusions. I was condemned for killing a man not in fair fight.
"I can't enter the army as an officer, and you should know it. The king himself could set me up again; but the distance between him and me is ten times round the world and back again!" But then Dyck nodded kindly. It was as if suddenly the martyr spirit had lifted him out of rigid, painful isolation, and he was speaking from a hilltop. "No, my friends, what is in my mind now is that I'm hungry. For four years I've eaten the bread of prison, and it's soured my mouth and galled my belly. Go you to that inn and make ready a good meal."
The two men started to leave, but old Christopher turned and stretched a hand up and out.
"Son of Ireland, bright and black and black and bright may be the picture of your life, but I see for you brightness and sweet faces, and music and song. It's not Irish music, and it's not Irish song, but the soul of the thing is Irish. Grim things await you, but you will conquer where the eagle sways to the shore, where the white mist flees from the hills, where heroes meet, where the hand of Moira stirs the blue and the witches flee from the voice of God. There is honour coming to you in the world."
Having said his say, with hand outstretched, having thrilled the air with the voice of one who had the soul of a prophet, the old man turned. Head bent forward, he shuffled away with Michael Clones along the stony street.
Dyck watched them go, his heart beating hard, his spirit overwhelmed.
It was not far to the Castle, yet every footstep had a history. Now and again he met people who knew him. Some bowed a little too profoundly, some nodded; but not one stopped to speak to him, though a few among them were people he had known well in days gone by. Was it the clothes he wore, or was it that his star had sunk so low that none could keep it company? He laughed to himself in scorn, and yet there kept ringing through his brain all the time the bells of St. Anselm's, which he was hearing:
"Oh, God, who is the sinner's friend, Make clean my soul once more!"
When he arrived at the Castle walls he stood and looked long at them.
"No, I won't go in. I won't try to see him," he said at last. "God, how strange Ireland is to me! The soil of it, the trees of it, the grass of it, are dearer than ever, but—I'll have no more of Ireland. I'll ask for nothing. I'll get to England. What's Ireland to me? I must make my way somewhere. There's one in there"—he nodded towards the Castle— "that owes me money at cards. He should open his pockets to me, and see me safe on a ship for Australia; but I've had my fill of every one in Ireland. There's nothing here for me but shame. Well, back I'll go to the Hen and Chickens, to find a good dinner there."
He turned and went back slowly along the streets by which he had come, looking not to right nor left, thinking only of where he should go and what he should do outside of Ireland.
At the door of the inn he sniffed the dinner Michael had ordered.
"Man alive!" he said as he entered the place and saw the two men with their hands against the bright fire. "There's only one way to live, and that's the way I'm going to try."
"Well, you'll not try it alone, sir, if you please," said Michael. "I'll be with you, if I may."
"And I'll bless you as you go," said Christopher Dogan.
England was in a state of unrest. She had, as yet, been none too successful in the war with France. From the king's castle to the poorest slum in Seven Dials there was a temper bordering on despair. Ministries came and went; statesmen rose and fell. The army was indifferently recruited and badly paid. England's battles were fought by men of whom many were only mercenaries, with no stake in England's rise or fall.
In the army and navy there were protests, many and powerful, against the smallness of the pay, while the cost of living had vastly increased. In more than one engagement on land England had had setbacks of a serious kind, and there were those who saw in the blind-eyed naval policy, in the general disregard of the seamen's position, in the means used for recruiting, the omens of disaster. The police courts furnished the navy with the worst citizens of the country. Quota men, the output of the Irish prisons—seditious, conspiring, dangerous—were drafted for the king's service.
The admiralty pursued its course of seizing men of the mercantile marine, taking them aboard ships, keeping them away for months from the harbours of the kingdom, and then, when their ships returned, denying them the right of visiting their homes. The press-gangs did not confine their activities to the men of the mercantile marine. From the streets after dusk they caught and brought in, often after ill-treatment, torn from their wives and sweethearts, knocked on the head for resisting, tradesmen with businesses, young men studying for the professions, idlers, debtors, out-of-work men. The marvel is that the British fleets fought as well as they did.
Poverty and sorrow, loss and bereavement, were in every street, peeped mournfully out of every window, lurked at street corners. From all parts of the world adventurers came to renew their fortunes in the turmoil of London, and every street was a kaleidoscope of faces and clothes and colours, not British, not patriot, not national.
Among these outlanders were Dyck Calhoun and Michael Clones. They had left Ireland together in the late autumn, leaving behind them the stirrings of the coming revolution, and plunging into another revolt which was to prove the test and trial of English character.
Dyck had left Ireland with ninety pounds in his pocket and many tons' weight of misery in his heart. In his bones he felt tragedies on foot in Ireland which concession and good government could not prevent. He had fled from it all. When he set his face to Holyhead, he felt that he would never live in Ireland again. Yet his courage was firm as he made his way to London, with Michael Clones—faithful, devoted, a friend and yet a servant, treated like a comrade, yet always with a little dominance.
The journey to London had been without event, yet as the coach rolled through country where frost silvered the trees; where, in the early morning, the grass was shining with dew; where the everlasting green hedges and the red roofs of villages made a picture which pleased the eye and stirred the soul, Dyck Calhoun kept wondering what would be his future. He had no profession, no trade, no skill except with his sword; and as he neared London Town—when they left Hendon—he saw the smoke rising in the early winter morning and the business of life spread out before him, brave and buoyant.
As from the heights of Hampstead he looked down on the multitudinous area called London, something throbbed at his heart which seemed like hope; for what he saw was indeed inspiring. When at last, in the Edgware Road, he drew near to living London, he turned to Michael Clones and said:
"Michael, my lad, I think perhaps we'll find a footing here."
So they reached London, and quartered themselves in simple lodgings in Soho. Dyck walked the streets, and now and then he paid a visit to the barracks where soldiers were, to satisfy the thought that perhaps in the life of the common soldier he might, after all, find his future. It was, however, borne in upon him by a chance remark of Michael one day—"I'm not young enough to be a recruit, and you wouldn't go alone without me, would you?"—that this way to a livelihood was not open to him.
His faithful companion's remark had fixed Dyck's mind against entering the army, and then, towards the end of the winter, a fateful thing happened. His purse containing what was left of the ninety pounds—two- fifths of it—disappeared. It had been stolen, and in all the bitter days to come, when poverty and misery ground them down, no hint of the thief, no sign of the robber, was ever revealed.
Then, at last, a day when a letter came from Ireland. It was from the firm in which Bryan Llyn of Virginia had been interested, for the letter had been sent to their care, and Dyck had given them his address in London on this very chance. It reached Dyck's hands on the day after the last penny had been paid out for their lodgings, and they faced the streets, penniless, foodless—one was going to say friendless. The handwriting was that of Sheila Llyn.
At a street corner, by a chemist's shop where a red light burned, Dyck opened and read the letter. This is what Sheila had written to him.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
The time is near (I understand by a late letter to my mother from an official) when you will be freed from prison and will face the world again. I have not written you since your trial, but I have never forgotten and never shall. I have been forbidden to write to you or think of you, but I will take my own way about you. I have known all that has happened since we left Ireland, through the letters my mother has received. I know that Playmore has been sold, and I am sorry.
Now that your day of release is near, and you are to be again a free man, have you decided about your future? Is it to be in Ireland? No, I think not. Ireland is no place for a sane and level man to fight for honour, fame, and name. I hear that things are worse there in every way than they have been in our lifetime.
After what has happened in any case, it is not a field that offers you a chance. Listen to me. Ireland and England are not the only places in the world. My uncle came here to Virginia a poor man. He is now immensely rich. He had little to begin with, but he was young like you—indeed, a little older than you—when he first came. He invested wisely, worked bravely, and his wealth grew fast. No man needs a fortune to start the business of life in this country. He can get plenty of land for almost nothing; he can get credit for planting and furnishing his land, and, if he has friends, the credit is sure.
All America is ready for "the likes of you." Think it over, and meanwhile please know there has been placed with the firm in Dublin money enough to bring you here with comfort. You must not refuse it. Take it as a loan, for I know you will not take it as a gift.
I do not know the story of the killing, even as it was told in court. Well, some one killed the man, but not you, and the truth will out in time. If one should come to me out of the courts of heaven, and say that there it was declared you were a rogue, I should say heaven was no place for me. No, of one thing I am sure— you never killed an undefended man. Wayward, wanton, reckless, dissipated you may have been, but you were never depraved—never!
When you are free, lift up your shoulders to all the threats of time, then go straight to the old firm where the money is, draw it, take ship, and come here. If you let me know you are coming, I will be there to meet you when you step ashore, to give you a firm hand- clasp; to tell you that in this land there is a good place for you, if you will win it.
Here there is little crime, though the perils of life are many. There is Indian fighting; there are Indian depredations; and not a dozen miles from where I sit men have been shot for crimes committed. The woods are full of fighters, and pirates harry the coast. On the wall of the room where I write there are carbines that have done service in Indian wars and in the Revolutionary War; and here out of the window I can see hundreds of black heads-slaves, brought from Africa and the Indies, slaves whose devotion to my uncle is very great. I hear them singing now; over the white-tipped cotton-fields there flows the sound of it.
This plantation has none of the vices that belong to slavery. Here life is complete. The plantation is one great workshop where trades are learned and carried out-shoeing, blacksmithing, building, working in wood and metal.
I am learning here—you see I am quite old, for I am twenty-one now —the art of management. They tell me that when my uncle's day is done—I grieve to think it is not far off—I must take the rod of control. I work very, very hard. I have to learn figures and finance; I have to see how all the work is done, so that I shall know it is done right. I have had to discipline the supervisors and bookkeepers, inspect and check the output, superintend the packing, and arrange for the sale of the crop-yes, I arranged for the sale of this year's crop myself. So I live the practical life, and when I say that you could make your home here and win success, I do it with some knowledge.
I beg you take ship for the Virginian coast. Enter upon the new life here with faith and courage. Have no fear. Heaven that has thus far helped you will guide you to the end.
I write without my mother's permission, but my uncle knows, and though he does not approve, he does not condemn.
Once more good-bye, my dear friend, and God be with you.
P. S.—I wonder where you will read this letter. I hope it will find you before your release. Please remember that she who wrote it summons you from the darkness where you are to light and freedom here.
Slowly Dyck folded up the letter, when he had read it, and put it in his pocket. Then he turned with pale face and gaunt look to Michael Clones.
"Michael," said he, "that letter is from a lady. It comes from her new home in Virginia."
"Aye, aye, sir, I understand you," he said. "Then she doesn't know the truth about her father?" Dyck sighed heavily. "No, Michael, she doesn't know the truth."
"I don't believe it would make any difference to her if she did know."
"It would make all the difference to me, Michael. She says she wishes to help me. She tells me that money's been sent to the big firm in Dublin- money to take me across the sea to Virginia."
Michael's face clouded.
"Yes, sir. To Virginia—and what then?"
"Michael, we haven't a penny in the world, you and I, but if I took one farthing of that money I should hope you would kill me. I'm hungry; we've had nothing to eat since yesterday; but if I could put my hands upon that money here and now I wouldn't touch it. Michael, it looks as if we shall have to take to the trade of the footpad."
THE HOUR BEFORE THE MUTINY
In the days when Dyck Calhoun was on the verge of starvation in London, evil naval rumours were abroad. Newspapers reported, one with apprehension, another with tyrannous comment, mutinous troubles in the fleet.
At first the only demand at Spithead and the Nore had been for an increase of pay, which had not been made since the days of Charles II. Then the sailors' wages were enough for comfortable support; but in 1797 through the rise in the cost of living, and with an advance of thirty per cent. on slops, their families could barely maintain themselves. It was said in the streets, and with truth, that seamen who had fought with unconquerable gallantry under Howe, Collingwood, Nelson, and the other big sea-captains, who had borne suffering and wounds, and had been in the shadow of death—that even these men damned a system which, in its stern withdrawal of their class for long spaces of time from their own womenfolk, brought evil results to the forecastle.
The soldier was always in touch with his own social world, and he had leave sufficient to enable him to break the back of monotony. He drank, gambled, and orated; but his indulgences were little compared with the debauches of able-bodied seamen when, after months of sea-life, they reached port again. A ship in port at such a time was not a scene of evangelical habits. Women of loose class, flower-girls, fruit-sellers, and costermongers turned the forecastle into a pleasure-house where the pleasures were not always secret; where native modesty suffered no affright, and physical good cheer, with ribald paraphrase, was notable everywhere.
"How did it happen, Michael?"
As he spoke, Dyck looked round the forecastle of the Ariadne with a restless and inquisitive expression. Michael was seated a few feet away, his head bent forward, his hands clasped around his knees.
"Well, it don't matter one way or 'nother," he replied; "but it was like this. The night you got a letter from Virginia we was penniless; so at last I went with my watch to the pawnbroker's. You said you'd wait till I got back, though you knew not where I was goin'. When I got back, you were still broodin'. You were seated on a horse-block by the chemist's lamp where you had read the letter. It's not for me to say of what you were thinkin'; but I could guess. You'd been struck hard, and there had come to you a letter from one who meant more to you than all the rest of the world; and you couldn't answer it because things weren't right. As I stood lookin' at you, wonderin' what to do, though, I had twelve shillin's in my pocket from the watch I'd pawned, there came four men, and I knew from their looks they were recruitin' officers of the navy. I saw what was in their eyes. They knew—as why shouldn't they, when they saw a gentleman like you in peasant clothes?—that luck had been agin' us.
"What the end would have been I don't know. It was you that solved the problem, not them. You looked at the first man of them hard. Then you got to your feet.
"'Michael,' says you quietly, 'I'm goin' to sea. England's at war, and there's work to do. So let's make for a king's ship, and have done with misery and poverty.'
"Then you waved a hand to the man in command of the recruitin' gang, and presently stepped up to him and his friends.
"'Sir,' I said to you, 'I'm not going to be pressed into the navy.'
"'There's no pressin', Michael,' you answered. 'We'll be quota men. We'll do it for cash—for forty pounds each, and no other. You let them have you as you are. But if you don't want to come,' you added, 'it's all the same to me.'
"Faith, I knew that was only talk. I knew you wanted me. Also I knew the king's navy needed me, for men are hard to get. So, when they'd paid us the cash—forty pounds apiece—I stepped in behind you, and here we are—here we are! Forty pounds apiece—equal to three years' wages of an ordinary recruit of the army. It ain't bad, but we're here for three years, and no escape from it. Yes, here we are!"
"Aye, here we're likely to remain, Michael. There's only this to be said—we'll be fighting the French soon, and it's easy to die in the midst of a great fight. If we don't die, Michael, something else will turn up, maybe."
"That's true, sir! They'll make an officer of you, once they see you fight. This is no place for you, among the common herd. It's the dregs o' the world that comes to the ship's bottom in time of peace or war."
"Well, I'm the dregs of the world, Michael. I'm the supreme dregs."
Somehow the letter from Virginia had decided Dyck Calhoun's fate for him. Here he was—at sea, a common sailor in the navy. He and Michael Clones had eaten and drunk as sailors do, and they had realized that, as they ate and drank on the River Thames, they would not eat and drink on the watery fairway. They had seen the tank foul with age, from which water was drawn for men who could not live without it, and the smell of it had revolted Dyck's senses. They had seen the kegs of pickled meat, and they had been told of the evil rations given to the sailors at sea.
The Ariadne had been a flag-ship in her day, the home of an admiral and his staff. She carried seventy-four guns, was easily obedient to her swift sail, and had a reputation for gallantry. From the first hour on board, Dyck Calhoun had fitted in; with a discerning eye he had understood the seamen's needs and the weaknesses of the system.
The months he had spent between his exit from prison and his entrance into the Ariadne had roughened, though not coarsened, his outward appearance. From his first appearance among the seamen he had set himself to become their leader. His enlistment was for three years, and he meant that these three should prove the final success of this naval enterprise, or the stark period in a calendar of tragedy.
The life of the sailor, with its coarseness and drudgery, its inadequate pay, its evil-smelling food, its maggoty bread, its beer drawn from casks that once had held oil or fish, its stinking salt-meat barrels, the hideous stench of the bilge-water—all this could in one sense be no worse than his sufferings in jail. In spite of self-control, jail had been to him the degradation of his hopes, the humiliation of his manhood.
He had suffered cold, dampness, fever, and indigestion there, and it had sapped the fresh fibre of life in him. His days in London had been cruel. He had sought work in great commercial concerns, and had almost been grateful when rejected. When his money was stolen, there seemed nothing to do, as he said to Michael Clones, but to become a footpad or a pirate. Then the stormy doors of the navy had opened wide to him; and as many a man is tempted into folly or crime by tempestuous nature, so he, forlorn, spiritually unkempt, but physically and mentally well-composed, in a spirit of bravado, flung himself into the bowels of the fleet.
From the moment Dyck arrived on board the Ariadne he was a marked man. Ferens, a disfranchised solicitor, who knew his story, spread the unwholesome truth about him among the ship's people, and he received attentions at once offensive and flattering. The best-educated of the ship's hands approached him on the grievances with which the whole navy was stirring.
Something had put a new spirit into the life of his majesty's ships; it was, in a sense, the reflection of the French Revolution and Tom Paine's Age of Reason. What the Americans had done in establishing a republic, what France was doing by her revolution, got into the veins and minds of some men in England, but it got into the veins and minds of the sailor first; for, however low his origin, he had intercourse not given to the average landsman. He visited foreign ports, he came in touch with other elements than those of British life and character.
Of all the ships in the navy the Ariadne was the best that Dyck Calhoun could have entered. Her officers were humane and friendly, yet firm; and it was quite certain that if mutiny came they would be treated well. The agitation on the Ariadne in support of the grievances of the sailors was so moderate that, from the first, Dyck threw in his lot with it. Ferens, the former solicitor, first came to him with a list of proposals, which only repeated the demands made by the agitators at Spithead.
"You're new among us," said Ferens to Dyck. "You don't quite know what we've been doing, I suppose. Some of us have been in the navy for two years, and some for ten. There are men on this ship who could tell you stories that would make your blood run cold—take my word for it. There's a lot of things goin' on that oughtn't to be goin' on. The time has come for reform. Have a look at this paper, and tell me what you think."
Dyck looked at the pockmarked face of Ferens, whose record in the courts was a bad one, and what he saw did not disgust him. It was as though Ferens had stumbled and been badly hit in his fall, but there were no signs of permanent evil in his countenance. He was square-headed, close-cropped, clear-eyed, though his face was yellow where it was not red, and his tongue was soft in his head.
Dyck read the paper slowly and carefully. Then he handed it back without a word.
"Well, what have you got to say?" asked Ferens. "Nothing? Don't you think that's a strong list of grievances and wrongs?"
Dyck nodded. "Yes, it's pretty strong," he said, and he held up his hand. "Number One, wages and cost of living. I'm sure we're right there. Cost of living was down in King Charles's time, and wages were down accordingly. Everything's gone up, and wages should go up. Number Two, the prize-money scandal. I'm with you there. I don't see why an officer should get two thousand five hundred times as much as a seaman. There ought to be a difference, but not so much. Number Three, the food ought to be better; the water ought to be better. We can't live on rum, maggoty bread, and foul water—that's sure. The rum's all right; it's powerful natural stuff, but we ought to have meat that doesn't stink, and bread that isn't alive. What's more, we ought to have lots of lime- juice, or there's no protection for us when we're out at sea with the best meat taken by the officers and the worst left to us; and with foul water and rotten food, there's no hope or help. But, if we're going in for this sort of thing, we ought to do it decently. We can't slap a government in the mouth, and we can't kick an admiral without paying heavy for it in the end. If it's wholesome petitioning you're up to, I'm with you; but I'm not if there's to be knuckle-dusting."
Ferens shrugged a shoulder.
"Things are movin', and we've got to take our stand now when the time is ripe for it, or else lose it for ever. Over at Spithead they're gettin' their own way. The government are goin' to send the Admiralty Board down here, because our admiral say to them that it won't be safe goin' unless they do."
"And what are we going to do here?" asked Dyck. "What's the game of the fleet at the Nore?"
Ferens replied in a low voice:
"Our men are goin' to send out petitions—to the Admiralty and to the House of Commons."
"Why don't you try Lord Howe?"
"He's not in command of a fleet now. Besides, petitions have been sent him, and he's taken no notice."
"Howe? No notice—the best admiral we ever had! I don't believe it," declared Dyck savagely. "Why, the whole navy believes in Howe. They haven't forgotten what he did in '94. He's as near to the seaman as the seaman is to his mother. Who sent the petitions to him?"
"They weren't signed by names—they were anonymous."
"Yes, and all written by the same hand, I suppose." Ferens nodded.
"I think that's so."
"Can you wonder, then, that Lord Howe didn't acknowledge them? But I'm still sure he acted promptly. He's a big enough friend of the sailor to waste no time before doing his turn."
Ferens shook his head morosely.
"That may be," he said; "but the petitions were sent weeks ago, and there's no sign from Lord Howe. He was at Bath for gout. My idea is he referred them to the admiral commanding at Portsmouth, and was told that behind the whole thing is conspiracy—French socialism and English politics. I give you my word there's no French agent in the fleet, and if there were, it wouldn't have any effect. Our men's grievances are not new. They're as old as Cromwell."
Suddenly a light of suspicion flashed into Ferens's face.
"You're with us, aren't you? You see the wrongs we've suffered, and how bad it all is! Yet you haven't been on a voyage with us. You've only tasted the life in harbour. Good God, this life is heaven to what we have at sea! We don't mind the fightin'. We'd rather fight than eat." An evil grin covered his face for a minute. "Yes, we'd rather fight than eat, for the stuff we get to eat is hell's broil, God knows! Did you ever think what the life of the sailor is, that swings at the top of a mast with the frost freezin' his very soul, and because he's slow, owin' to the cold, gets twenty lashes for not bein' quicker? Well, I've seen that, and a bad sight it is. Did you ever see a man flogged? It ain't a pretty sight. First the back takes the click of the whip like a damned washboard, and you see the ridges rise and go purple and red, and the man has his breath knocked clean out of him with every blow. Nearly every stroke takes off the skin and draws the blood, and a dozen will make the back a ditch of murder. Then the whipper stops, looks at the lashes, feels them tender like, and out and down it comes again. When all the back is ridged and scarred, the flesh, that looked clean and beautiful, becomes a bloody mass. Some men get a hundred lashes, and that's torture and death.
"A man I knew was flogged told me once that the first blow made his flesh quiver in every nerve from his toe-nails to his finger-nails, and stung his heart as if a knife had gone through his body. There was agony in his lungs, and the time between each stroke was terrible, and yet the next came too soon. He choked with the blood from his tongue, lacerated with his teeth, and from his lungs, and went black in the face. I saw his back. It looked like roasted meat; yet he had only had eighty strokes.
"The punishments are bad. Runnin' the gauntlet is one of them. Each member of the crew is armed with three tarry rope-yarns, knotted at the ends. Then between the master-at-arms with a drawn sword and two corporals with drawn swords behind, the thief, stripped to the waist, is placed. The thing is started by a boatswain's mate givin' him a dozen lashes. Then he's slowly marched down the double line of men, who flog him as he passes, and at the end of the line he receives another dose of the cat from the boatswain's mate. The poor devil's body and head are flayed, and he's sent to hospital and rubbed with brine till he's healed.
"But the most horrible of all is flogging through the fleet. That's given for strikin' an officer, or tryin' to escape. It's a sickenin' thing. The victim is lashed by his wrists to a capstan-bar in the ship's long-boat, and all the ship's boats are lowered also, and each ship in harbour sends a boat manned by marines to attend. Then, with the master- at-arms and the ship's surgeon, the boat is cast off. The boatswain's mate begins the floggin', and the boat rows away to the half-minute bell, the drummer beatin' the rogue's march. From ship to ship the long-boat goes, and the punishment of floggin' is repeated. If he faints, he gets wine or rum, or is taken back to his ship to recover. When his back is healed he goes out to get the rest of his sentence. Very few ever live through it, or if they do it's only for a short time. They'd better have taken the hangin' that was the alternative. Even a corpse with its back bare of flesh to the bone has received the last lashes of a sentence, and was then buried in the mud of the shore with no religious ceremony.
"Mind you, there's many a man gets fifty lashes that don't deserve them. There's many men in the fleet that's stirred to anger at ill-treatment, until now, in these days, the whole lot is ready to see the thing through—to see the thing through—by heaven and by hell!"
The pockmarked face had taken on an almost ghastly fervour, until it looked like a distorted cartoon-vindictive, fanatical; but Dyck, on the edge of the river of tragedy, was not ready to lose himself in the stream of it.
As he looked round the ship he felt a stir of excitement like nothing he had ever known, though he had been brought up in a country where men were by nature revolutionists, and where the sword was as often outside as inside the scabbard. There was something terrible in a shipboard agitation not to be found in a land-rising. On land there were a thousand miles of open country, with woods and houses, caves and cliffs, to which men could flee for hiding; and the danger of rebellion was less dominant. At sea, a rebellion was like some beastly struggle in one room, beyond the walls of which was everlasting nothingness. The thing had to be fought out, as it were, man to man within four walls, and God help the weaker!
"How many ships in the fleet are sworn to this agitation?" Dyck asked presently.
"Every one. It's been like a spread of infection; it's entered at every door, looked out of every window. All the ships are in it, from the twenty-six-hundred-tonners to the little five-hundred-and-fifty-tonners. Besides, there are the Delegates."
He lowered his voice as he used these last words. "Yes, I know," Dyck answered, though he did not really know. "But who is at the head?"
"Why, as bold a man as can be—Richard Parker, an Irishman. He was once a junior naval officer, and left the navy and went into business; now he is a quotaman, and leads the mutiny. Let me tell you that unless there's a good round answer to what we demand, the Nore fleet'll have it out with the government. He's a man of character, is Richard Parker, and the fleet'll stand by him."
"How long has he been at it?" asked Dyck.
"Oh, weeks and weeks! It doesn't all come at once, the grip of the thing. It began at Spithead, and it worked right there; and now it's workin' at the Nore, and it'll work and work until there isn't a ship and there isn't a man that won't be behind the Delegates. Look. Half the seamen on this ship have tasted the inside of a jail; and the rest come from the press-gang, and what's left are just the ragged ends of street corners. But"—and here the man drew himself up with a flush—"but there's none of us that wouldn't fight to the last gasp of breath for the navy that since the days of Elizabeth has sailed at the head of all the world. Don't think we mean harm to the fleet. We mean to do it good. All we want is that its masters shall remember we're human flesh and blood; that we're as much entitled to good food and drink on sea as on land; and that, if we risk our lives and shed our blood, we ought to have some share in the spoils. We're a great country and we're a great people, but, by God, we're not good to our own! Look at them there."
He turned and waved a hand to the bowels of the ship where sailors traded with the slop-sellers, or chaffered with women, or sat in groups and sang, or played rough games which had no vital meaning; while here and there in groups, with hands gesticulating, some fanatics declared their principles. And the principles of every man in the Nore fleet so far were embraced in the four words—wages, food, drink, prize-money.
Presently Ferens stopped short. "Listen!" he said.
There was a cry from the ship's side not far away, and then came little bursts of cheering.
"By Heaven, it's the Delegates comin' here!" he said. He held up a warning palm, as though commanding silence, while he listened intently. "Yes, it's the Delegates. Now look at that crowd of seamen!" He swung his hand towards the bowels of the ship. Scores of men were springing to their feet. Presently there came a great shouting and cheers, and then four new faces appeared on deck. They were faces of intelligence, but one of them had the enlightened look of leadership.
"By Judas, it's our leader, Richard Parker!" declared Ferens.
What Dyck now saw was good evidence of the progress of the agitation. There were officers of the Ariadne to be seen, but they wisely took no notice of the breaches of regulation which followed the arrival of the Delegates. Dyck saw Ferens speak to Richard Parker after the men had been in conference with Parker and the Delegates, and then turn towards himself. Richard Parker came to him.
"We are fellow countrymen," he said genially. "I know your history. We are out to make the navy better—to get the men their rights. I understand you are with us?"
Dyck bowed. "I will do all possible to get reforms in wages and food put through, sir."
"That's good," said Parker. "There are some petitions you can draft, and some letters also to the Admiralty and to the Houses of Lords and Commons."
"I am at your service," said Dyck.
He saw his chance to secure influence on the Ariadne, and also to do good to the service. Besides, he felt he might be able to check the worst excesses of the agitation, if he got power under Parker. He was free from any wish for mutiny, but he was the friend of an agitation which might end as successfully as the trouble at Spithead.
TO THE WEST INDIES
A fortnight later the mutiny at the Nore shook and bewildered the British Isles. In the public journals and in Parliament it was declared that this outbreak, like that at Spithead, was due partly to political strife, but more extensively to agents of revolution from France and Ireland.
The day after Richard Parker visited the Ariadne the fleet had been put under the control of the seamen's Delegates, who were men of standing in the ships, and of personal popularity. Their first act was to declare that the fleet should not leave port until the men's demands were satisfied.
The King, Prime Minister, and government had received a shock greater than that which had come with the announcement of American independence. The government had armed the forts at Sheerness, had sent troops and guns to Gravesend and Tilbury, and had declared war upon the rebellious fleet.
At the head of the Delegates, Richard Parker, with an officer's knowledge, became a kind of bogus admiral, who, in interview with the real admirals and the representatives of the Admiralty Board, talked like one who, having power, meant to use it ruthlessly. The government had yielded to the Spithead mutineers, giving pardon to all except the ringleaders, and granting demands for increased wages and better food, with a promise to consider the question of prize-money; but the Nore mutineers refused to accept that agreement, and enlarged the Spithead demands. Admiral Buckner arrived on board his flag-ship, the Sandwich, without the deference due to an admiral, and then had to wait three hours for Parker and the Delegates on the quarter-deck. At the interview that followed, while apologizing to the admiral for his discourtesy, Parker wore his hat as quasi-admiral of the fleet. The demands of the Delegates were met by reasoning on the part of Buckner, but without effect: for the seamen of the Nore believed that what Spithead could get by obstinacy the Nore could increase by contumacy; and it was their firm will to bring the Lords of the Admiralty to their knees.
The demands of the Nore Delegates, however, were rejected by the Admiralty, and with the rejection two regiments of militia came from Canterbury to reinforce the Sheerness garrison. The mutineers were allowed to parade the town, so long as their conduct was decent, as Admiral Buckner admitted it to be; but Parker declared that the presence of the militia was an insult to the seamen in the Nore fleet.
Then ensued the beginning of the terror. When Buckner presented the Admiralty's refusal to deal with the Delegates, there came quick response. The reply of the mutineers was to row into Sheerness harbour and take away with them eight gunboats lying there, each of which fired a shot at the fort, as if to announce that the mutineers were now the avowed enemies of the government.
Thereupon the rebels ordered all their ships together at the Great Nore, ranging them into two crescents, with the newly acquired gunboats at the flanks. The attitude of the authorities gave the violent mutineers their opportunity. Buckner's flag was struck from the mainmast-head of the Sandwich, and the red flag was hoisted in its place.
The Delegates would not accept an official pardon for their mutiny through Buckner. They demanded a deputation from the Admiralty, Parker saying that no accommodation could occur without the appearance of the Lords of the Admiralty at the Nore. Then followed threatening arrangements, and the Delegates decided to blockade the Thames and the Medway.
It was at this time that Dyck Calhoun—who, by consent of Richard Parker, had taken control of the Ariadne—took action which was to alter the course of his own life and that of many others.
Since the beginning of the mutiny he had acted with decision, judgment, and strength. He had agreed to the Ariadne joining the mutinous ships, and he had skilfully constructed petitions to the Admiralty, the House of Commons, and the King. His habit of thought, his knowledge of life, made him a power. He believed that the main demands of the seamen were just, and he made a useful organization to enforce them. It was only when he saw the mutineers would not accept the terms granted to the Spithead rebels that a new spirit influenced him.
He had determined to get control of the Ariadne. His gift as a speaker had conquered his fellow-sailors, and the fact that he was an ex-convict gave them confidence that he was no friend of the government.
One of the first things he did, after securing his own pre-eminence on the ship, was to get the captain and officers safely ashore. This he did with skill, and the crew of the ship even cheered them as they left.
None of the regular officers of the Ariadne were left upon her, except Greenock, the master of the ship, whose rank was below that of lieutenant, and whose duties were many and varied under the orders of the captain. Greenock chose to stay, though Dyck said he could go if he wished. Greenock's reply was that it was his duty to stay, if the ship was going to remain at sea, for no one else could perform his duties or do his work.
Then, by vote, Dyck became captain of the ship. He did not, however, wear a captain's uniform—blue coat, with white cuffs, flat gold buttons; with lace at the neck, a white-sleeved waistcoat, knee-breeches, white silk stockings, and a three-cornered black hat edged with gold lace and ornamented with a cockade; with a black cravat, a straight dress sword, a powdered cue tied with a black-silk ribbon, and epaulets of heavy gold stuff completing the equipment. Dyck, to the end of his career at sea, wore only the common seaman's uniform.
Dyck would not have accepted the doubtful honour had he not had long purposes in view. With Ferens, Michael Clones, and two others whom Ferens could trust, a plan was arranged which Dyck explained to his fellow-seamen on the Ariadne.
"We've come to the parting of the ways, brothers," he said. "We've all become liable to death for mutiny. The pardon offered by the King has been refused, and fresh demands are made. There, I think, a real wrong has been done by our people. The Ariadne is well supplied with food and water. It is the only ship with sufficiency. And why? Because at the beginning we got provisions from the shore in time; also we got permission from Richard Parker to fill our holds from two stopped merchant-ships. Well, the rest of the fleet know what our food and drink fitment is. They know how safe we are, and to-day orders have come to yield our provisions to the rest of the fleet. That is, we, who have taken time by the forelock, must yield up our good gettings to bad receivers. I am not prepared to do it.
"On shore the Admiralty have stopped the supply of provisions to us and to all the fleet. Our men have been arrested at Gravesend, Tilbury, and Sheerness. The fleet could not sail now if it wished; but one ship can sail, and it is ours. The fleet hasn't the food to sail. On Richard Parker's ship, the Sandwich, there is food only for a week. The others are almost as bad. We are in danger of being attacked. Sir Erasmus Gower, of the Neptune, has a fleet of warships, gunboats, and amateur armed vessels getting ready to attack us. The North Sea fleet has come to help us, but that doesn't save us. I'll say this—we are loyal men in this fleet, otherwise our ships would have joined the enemy in the waters of France or Holland. They can't go now, in any case. The men have lost heart. Confidence in our cause has declined. The government sent Lords of the Admiralty here, and they offered pardon if we accepted the terms of the Spithead settlement. We declined the terms. That was a bad day for us, and put every one of our heads in a noose.
"For the moment we have a majority in men and ships; but we can't renew our food or drink, or ammunition. The end is sure against us. Our original agitation was just; our present obduracy is madness. This ship is suspected. It is believed by the rest of the fleet—by ships like the Invincible—that we're weak-kneed, selfish, and lacking in fidelity to the cause. That's not true; but we have either to fight or to run, and perhaps to do both.
"Make no mistake. The government are not cowards; the Admiralty are gentlemen of determination. If men like Admiral Howe support the Admiralty—Howe, one of the best friends the seaman ever had—what do you think the end will be? Have you heard what happened at Spithead? The seamen chivvied Admiral Alan Gardner and his colleagues aboard a ship. He caught hold of a seaman Delegate by the collar and shook him. They closed in on him. They handled him roughly. He sprang on the hammock- nettings, put the noose of the hanging-rope round his neck, and said to the men who advanced menacingly:
"'If you will return to your duty, you may hang me at the yard-arm!'
"That's the kind of stuff our admirals are made of. We have no quarrel with the majority of our officers. They're straight, they're honest, and they're true to their game. Our quarrel is with Parliament and the Admiralty; our struggle is with the people of the kingdom, who have not seen to it that our wrongs are put right, that we have food to eat, water to drink, and money to spend."