He waved a hand, as though to sweep away the criticisms he felt must be rising against him.
"Don't think because I've spent four years in prison under the sternest discipline the world offers, and have never been a seaman before, that I'm not fitted to espouse your cause. By heaven, I am—I am—I am— I know the wrongs you've suffered. I've smelled the water you drink. I've tasted the rotten meat. I've seen the honest seaman who has been for years upon the main—I've seen the scars upon his back got from a brutal officer who gave him too big a job to do, and flogged him for not doing it. I know of men who, fevered with bad food, have fallen, from the mainmast-head, or have slipped overboard, glad to go, because of the wrongs they'd suffered.
"I'll tell you what our fate will be, and then I'll put a question to you. We must either give up our stock of provisions or run for it. Parker and the other Delegates proclaim their comradeship; yet they have hidden from us the king's proclamation and the friendly resolutions of the London merchants. I say our only hope is to escape from the Thames. I know that skill will be needed, but if we escape, what then? I say if we escape, because, as we sail out, orders will be given for the other mutiny ships to attack us. We shall be fired on; we shall risk our lives. You've done that before, however, and will do it again.
"We have to work out our own problem and fight our own fight. Well, what I want to know is this—are we to give in to the government, or do we stand to be hammered by Sir Erasmus Gower? Remember what that means. It means that if we fight the government ships, we must either die in battle, or die with the ropes round our necks. There is another way. I'm not inclined to surrender, or to stand by men who have botched our business for us. I'm for making for the sea, and, when I get there, I'm for striking for the West Indies, where there's a British fleet fighting Britain's enemies, and for joining in and fighting with them. I'm for getting out of this river and away from England. It's a bold plan, but it's a good one. I want to know if you're with me. Remember, there's danger getting out, and there's danger when and if we get out. The other ships may pursue us. The Portsmouth fleet may nab us. We may be caught, and, if we are, we must take the dose prepared for us; but I'm for making a strong rush, going without fear, and asking no favour. I won't surrender here; it's too cowardly. I want to know, will you come to the open sea with me?"
There were many shouts of assent from the crowd, though here and there came a growl of dissent.
"Not all of you are willing to come with me," Dyck continued vigorously. "Tell me, what is it you expect to get by staying here? You're famished when you're not poisoned; you're badly clothed and badly fed; you're kept together by flogging; you're treated worse than a convict in jail or a victim in a plague hospital. You're not paid as well as your grandfathers were, and you're punished worse. Here, on the Ariadne, we're not skulkers. We don't fear our duty; we are loyal men. Many of you, on past voyages, fighting the enemy, lived on burgoo and molasses only, with rum and foul water to drink. On the other ships there have been terrible cruelty and offence. Surgeons have neglected and ill- treated sick men and embezzled provisions and drinks intended for the invalids. Many a man has died because of the neglect of the ship's surgeons; many have been kicked about the head and beaten, and haven't dared to go on the sick list for fear of their officers. The Victualling Board gets money to supply us with food and drink according to measure. They get the money for a full pound and a full gallon, and we get fourteen ounces of food and seven pints of liquor, or less. Well, what do you say, friends, to being our own Victualling Board out in the open sea, if we can get there?
"We may have to fight when we get out; but I'm for taking the Ariadne into the great world battle when we can find it. This I want to ask— isn't it worth while making a great fight in our own way, and showing that British seamen can at once be mutineers and patriots? We have a pilot who knows the river. We can go to the West Indian Islands, to the British fleet there. It's doom and death to stay here; and it may be doom and death to go. If we try to break free, and are fired on, the Admiralty may approve of us, because we've broken away from the rest. See now, isn't that the thing to do? I'm for getting out. Who's coming with me?"
Suddenly a burly sailor pushed forward. He had the head of a viking. His eyes were strong with enterprise. He had a hand like a ham, with long, hairy fingers.
"Captain," said he, "you've put the thing so there can be only one answer to it. As for me, I'm sick of the way this mutiny has been bungled from first to last. There's been one good thing about it only—we've got order without cruelty, we've rebelled without ravagement; but we've missed the way, and we didn't deal with the Admiralty commissioners as we ought. So I'm for joining up with the captain here"—he waved a hand towards Dyck—"and making for open sea. As sure as God's above, they'll try to hammer us; but it's the only way."
He held a handkerchief-a dirty, red silk thing. "See," he continued, "the wind is right to take us out. The other ships won't know what we're going to do until we start. I'm for getting off. I'm a pressed man. I haven't seen my girl for five years, and they won't let me free in port to go and see her. Nothing can be worse than what we have to suffer now, so let's make a break for it. That's what I say. Come, now, lads, three cheers for Captain Calhoun!"
A half-hour later, on the captain's deck, Dyck gave the order to pass eastward. It was sunset when they started, and they had not gone a thousand yards before some of the mutineering ships opened fire on the Ariadne. The breeze was good, however, and she sailed bravely through the leaden storm. Once twice—thrice she was hit, but she sped on. Two men were killed and several were wounded. Sails were torn, and the high bulkheads were broken; but, without firing a shot in reply, the Ariadne swung clear at last of the hostile ships and reached safe water.
On the edge of the open sea Dyck took stock of the position. The Ariadne had been hit several times, and the injury done her was marked. Before morning the dead seamen were sunk in watery graves, and the wounded were started back to health again. By daylight the Ariadne was well away from the land.
The first thing Dyck had done, after escaping from the river, was to study the wants of the Ariadne and make an estimate for the future with Greenock, the master. He calculated they had food and water enough to last for three months, even with liberal provisioning. Going among the crew, he realized there was no depression among them; that they seemed to care little where they were going. It was, however, quite clear they wished to fight—to fight the foes of England.
He knew his task was a hard one, and that all efforts at discipline would have dangers. He knew, also, that he could have no authority, save personality and success. He set himself, therefore, to win the confidence of Greenock and the crew, and he began discipline at once. He knew that a reaction must come; that the crew, loose upon their own trail, would come to regret the absence of official command. He realized that many of them would wish to return to the fleet at the Nore, but while the weather was good he did not fear serious trouble. The danger would come in rough weather or on a becalmed sea.
They had passed Beachy Head in the mist. They had seen no battle-ship, and had sighted no danger, as they made their way westward through the Channel. There had been one moment of anxiety. That was when they passed Portsmouth, and had seen in the far distance, to the right of them, the mastheads of Admiral Gardner's fleet.
It was here that Dyck's orderly, Michael Clones, was useful. He brought word of murmuring among the more brutish of the crew, that some of them wished to join Gardner's fleet. At this news, Dyck went down among the men. It was an unusual thing to do, but it brought matters to an issue.
Among the few dissatisfied sailors was one Nick Swaine, who had been the cause of more trouble on the Ariadne than any other. He had a quarrelsome mind; he had been influenced by the writings of Wolfe Tone, the Irish rebel. One of the secrets of Dyck's control of the crew was the fact that he was a gentleman, and was born in the ruling class, and this was anathema to Nick Swaine. His view of democracy was ignorance controlling ignorance.
By nature he was insolent, but under the system of control pursued by the officers of the Ariadne, previous to the mutiny, he had not been able to do much. The system had bound him down. He had been the slave of habit, custom, and daily duty. His record, therefore, was fairly clean until two days after the escape from the Thames and the sighting of the Portsmouth fleet. Then all his revolutionary spirit ran riot in him. Besides, the woman to whom he had become attached at the Nore had been put ashore on the day Dyck gained control. It roused his enmity now.
When Dyck came down, he had the gunners called to him, admonishing them that drill must go on steadily, and promising them good work to do. Then he turned to the ordinary seamen.
At this moment Nick Swaine strode forward within a dozen feet of Dyck.
"Look there!" he said, and he jerked a finger towards the distant Portsmouth fleet. "Look there! You've passed that."
Dyck shrugged a shoulder.
"I meant to pass it," he said quietly.
"Give orders to make for it," said Nick with a sullen eye.
"I shall not. And look you, my man, keep a civil tongue to me, who command this ship, or I'll have you put in irons."
"Have me put in irons!" Swaine cried hotly. "This isn't Dublin jail. You can't do what you like here. Who made you captain of this ship?"
"Those who made me captain will see my orders carried out. Now, get you back with the rest, or I'll see if they still hold good." Dyck waved a hand. "Get back when I tell you, Swaine !"
"When you've turned the ship to the Portsmouth fleet I'll get back, and not till then."
Dyck made a motion of the hand to some boatswains standing by. Before they could arrest him, Swaine flung himself towards Dyck with a knife in his hand.
Dyck's hand was quicker, however. His pistol flung out, a shot was fired, and the knife dropped from the battered fingers of Nick Swaine.
"Have his wounds dressed, then put him in irons," Dyck commanded.
From that moment, in good order and in good weather, the Ariadne sped on her way westward and southward.
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Perhaps no mutineer in the history of the world ever succeeded, as did Dyck Calhoun, in holding control over fellow-mutineers on the journey from the English Channel to the Caribbean Sea. As a boy, Dyck had been an expert sailor, had studied the machinery of a man-of-war, and his love of the sea was innate and deep-seated; but his present success was based upon more than experience. Quite apart from the honour of his nature, prison had deepened in him the hatred of injustice. In soul he was bitter; in body he was healthy, powerful, and sane.
Slowly, sternly, yet tactfully, he had broken down the many customs of ship life injurious to the welfare of the men. Under his system the sailors had good coffee for breakfast, instead of a horrible mixture made of burnt biscuits cooked in foul water. He gave the men pea-soup and rice instead of burgoo and the wretched oatmeal mess which was the staple thing for breakfast. He saw to it that the meat was no longer a hateful, repulsive mass, two-thirds bone and gristle, and before it came into the cook's hands capable of being polished like mahogany. He threatened the cook with punishment if he found the meals ill-cooked.
In all the journey to the West Indian seas there had been only three formal floggings. His attitude was not that of the commander who declared:
"I will see the man's backbone, by God!"
He wished to secure discipline without cruelty. His greatest difficulty, at the start, was in making lieutenants. That he overcame by appointing senior midshipmen before the Ariadne was out of the Channel. He offered a lieutenancy to Ferens, who had the courage to decline it.
"Make me purser," remarked Ferens. "Make me purser, and I'll do the job justly."
As the purser of the Ariadne had been sent to the sick-bay and was likely to die (and did die subsequently), Ferens was put into his uniform-three- cornered cocked hat, white knee-breeches, and white stockings. The purser of a man-of-war was generally a friend of the captain, going with him from ship to ship.
Of the common sailors, on the whole, Dyck had little doubt. He had informed them that, whatever happened, they should not be in danger; that the ship should not join the West Indian fleet unless every man except himself received amnesty. If the amnesty was not granted, then one of two things should happen—the ship must make for a South American port, or she must fight. Fighting would not frighten these men.
It was rather among the midshipmen that Dyck looked for trouble. Sometimes, with only two years' training at Gosport, a youngster became a midshipman on first going to sea, and he could begin as early as eleven years of age. A second-rate ship like the Ariadne carried eighteen midshipmen; and as six lieutenants were appointed from them, only twelve remained. From these twelve, in the dingy after-cockpit, where the superficial area was not more than twelve square feet; where the air was foul, and the bilges reeked with a pestilential stench; where the purser's store-room near gave out the smell of rancid butter and poisonous cheese; where the musty taint of old ropes came to them, there was a spirit of danger.
Dyck was right in thinking that in the midshipmen's dismal berth the first flowers of revolt to his rule would bloom.
Sailors, even as low as the pig-sty men, had some idea of fair play; and as the weeks that had passed since they left the Thames had given them better food and drink, and lessened the severity of those above them, real obedience had come.
It was not strange that the ship ran well, for all the officers under the new conditions, except Dyck himself, had had previous experience. The old lieutenants had gone, but midshipmen, who in any case were trained, had taken their places. The rest of the ship's staff were the same, except the captain; and as Dyck had made a friend of Greenock the master, a man of glumness, the days were peaceful enough during the voyage to the Caribbean Sea.
The majority saw that every act of Dyck had proved him just and capable. He had rigidly insisted on gun practice; he had keyed up the marines to a better spirit, and churlishness had been promptly punished. He was, in effect, what the sailors called a "rogue," or a "taut one"—seldom smiling, gaunt of face but fearless of eye, and with a body free from fatigue.
As the weather grew warmer and the days longer, and they drew near to the coast of Jamaica, a stir of excitement was shown.
"You'd like to know what I'm going to do, Michael, I suppose?" said Dyck one morning, as he drank his coffee and watched the sun creeping up the sky.
"Well, in three days we shall know what's to become of us, and I have no doubt or fear. This ship's a rebel, but it's returning to duty. We've shown them how a ship can be run with good food and drink and fair dealing, and, please God, we'll have some work to do now that belongs to a man-of-war!"
"Sir, I know what you mean to do," replied Michael. "You mean to get all of us off by giving yourself up."
"Well, some one has to pay for what we've done, Michael." A dark, ruthless light came into Dyck's eyes. "Some one's got to pay." A grim smile crossed his face. "We've done the forbidden thing; we've mutinied and taken to the open sea. We were fired on by the other mutiny ships, and that will help our sailors, but it won't help me. I'm the leader. We ought, of course, to have taken refuge with the nearest squadron of the king's ships. Well, I've run my luck, and I'll have to pay."
He scratched his chin with a thumb-nail-a permanent physical trait. "You see, the government has pardoned all the sailors, and will hang only the leaders. I expect Parker is hung already. Well, I'm the leader on the Ariadne. I'm taking this ship straight to his majesty's West Indian fleet, in thorough discipline, and I'll hand it over well-found, well- manned, well-officered, on condition that all go free except myself. I came aboard a common sailor, a quota man, a prison-bird, penniless. Well, have I shown that I can run a ship? Have I learned the game of control? During the weeks we've been at sea, bursting along, have I proved myself?"
Michael smiled. "What did I say to you the first night on board, sir? Didn't I say they'd make an officer of you when they found out what brains you had? By St. Patrick, you've made yourself captain with the good-will of all, and your iron hand has held the thing together. You've got a great head, too, sir."
Dyck looked at him with a face in which the far future showed.
"Michael, I've been lucky. I've had good men about me. God only knows what would have happened to me if the master hadn't been what he is—a gentleman who knows his job-aye, a gentleman through and through! If he had gone against me, Michael"—he flicked a finger to the sky—"well, that much for my chances! I'd have been dropped overboard, or stabbed in my cabin, as was that famous Captain Pigot, son of an admiral, who had as much soul as you'd find in a stone-quarry. When two men had dropped from the masts, hurrying to get down because of his threat that the last man should be thrashed—when the two men lay smashed to pieces at his feet, Pigot said: 'Heave the lubbers overboard.' That night, Michael, the seamen rose, crept to his cabin, stabbed him to death, pitched his body overboard, put his lieutenants to sea in open boats, and then ran away to South America. Well, I've escaped that fate, because this was a good ship, and all the officers knew their business, and did it without cruelty. I've been well served. It was a great thing making the new lieutenants from the midshipmen. There never was a better lot on board a ship."
Michael's face clouded. "Sir, that's true. The new lieutenants have done their work well, but them that's left behind in the midshipmen's berth—do you think they're content? No, sir. The only spot on board this ship where there lurks an active spirit against you is in the midshipmen's berth. Mischief's there, and that's what's brought me to you now."
Dyck smiled. "I know that. I've had my eye on the midshipmen. I've never trusted them. They're a hard lot; but if the rest of the ship is with me, I'll deal with them promptly. They're not clever or bold enough to do their job skilfully. They've got some old hands down there— hammock-men, old stagers of the sea that act as servants to them. What line do they take?"
Michael laughed softly.
"What I know I've got from two of them, and it is this—the young gentlemen'll try to get control of the ship."
The cynicism deepened in Dyck's face.
"Get control of the ship, eh? Well, it'll be a new situation on a king's ship if midshipmen succeed where the rest dare not try. Now, mark what I'm going to do."
He called, and a marine showed himself.
"The captain's compliments to the master, and his presence here at once. Michael," he continued presently, "what fools they are! They're scarcely a baker's dozen, and none of them has skill to lead. Why, the humblest sailor would have more sense than to start a revolt, the success of which depends upon his personal influence, and the failure of which must end in his own ruin. Does any one think they're the kind to lead a mutiny within a mutiny? Listen to me I'm not cruel, but I'll put an end to this plot. We're seven hundred on this ship, and she's a first-class sailer. I warrant no ship ever swam the seas that looks better going than she does. So we've got to see that her, record is kept clean as a mutineer."
At that moment the master appeared. He saluted. "Greenock," said Dyck, "I wonder if you've noticed the wind blowing chilly from the midshipmen's berth." A lurking devilish humour shot from Greenock's eyes.
"Aye, I've smelled that wind."
"Greenock, we're near the West Indian Islands. Before we eat many meals we'll see land. We may pass French ships, and we may have to fight. Well, we've had a good running, master; so I'll tell you what I mean to do."
He then briefly repeated what he had said to Michael, and added
"Greenock, in this last to-do, I shall be the only man in danger. The king's amnesty covers every one except the leaders—that lets you off. The Delegate of the Ariadne is aboard the Invincible, if he's not been hanged. I'm the only one left on the Ariadne. I've had a good time, Greenock—thanks to you, chiefly. I think the men are ready for anything that'll come; but I also think we should guard against a revolt of the midshipmen by healthy discipline now. Therefore I'll instruct the lieutenants to spread-eagle every midshipman for twelve hours. There's a stiff wind; there's a good stout spray, and the wind and spray should cool their hot souls. Meanwhile, though without food, they shall have water as they need it. If at the end of the twelve hours any still seems to be difficult, give him another twelve. Look!"
He stretched out a hand to the porthole on his right. "Far away in front are islands. You cannot see them yet, but those little thickening mists in the distance mean land. Those are the islands in front of the Windward Passage. I think it would be a good lesson for the young gentlemen to be spread-eagled against the mists of their future. It shall be' done at once; and pass the word why it's done."
An hour later there was laughter in every portion of the ship, for the least popular members of the whole personnel were being dragooned into discipline. The sailors had seen individual midshipmen spread-eagled and mastheaded, while all save those they could bribe were forbidden to bring them drink or food; but here was a whole body of junior officers, punished en masse, as it were, lashed to the rigging and taking the wind and the spray in their teeth.
Before the day was over, the whole ship was alive with anticipation, for, in the far distance, could be seen the dark blue and purplish shadows which told of land; and this brought the minds of all to the end of their journey, with thoughts of the crisis near.
Word had been passed that all on board were considered safe—all except the captain who had manoeuvred them to the entrance of the Caribbean Sea. Had he been of their own origin, they would not have placed so much credence in the rumour; but coming as he did of an ancient Irish family, although he had been in jail for killing, the traditional respect for the word of a gentleman influenced them. When a man like Ferens, on the one hand, and the mutineer whose fingers had been mutilated by Dyck in the Channel, on the other—when these agreed to bend themselves to the rule of a usurper, some idea of Calhoun's power may be got.
On this day, with the glimmer of land in the far distance, the charges of all the guns were renewed. Also word was passed that at any moment the ship must be cleared for action. Down in the cockpit the tables were got ready by the surgeon and the loblolly-boys; the magazines were opened, and the guards were put on duty.
Orders were issued that none should be allowed to escape active share in the coming battle; that none should retreat to the orlop deck or the lower deck; that the boys should carry the cartridge-cases handed to them from the magazine under the cover of their coats, running hard to the guns. The twenty-four-pounders-the largest guns in use at the time-the eighteen-pounders, and the twelve-pounder guns were all in good order.
The bags of iron balls called grape-shot-the worst of all—varying in size from sixteen to nine balls in a bag, were prepared. Then the canister, which produced ghastly murder, chain-shot to bring down masts and spars, langrel to fire at masts and rigging, and the dismantling shot to tear off sails, were all made ready. The muskets for the marines, the musketoons, the pistols, the cutlasses, the boarding-pikes, the axes or tomahawks, the bayonets and sailors' knives, were placed conveniently for use. A bevy of men were kept busy cleaning the round shot of rust, and there was not a man on the ship who did not look with pride at the guns, in their paint of grey-blue steel, with a scarlet band round the muzzle.
To the right of the Ariadne was the coast of Cuba; to the left was the coast of Haiti, both invisible to the eye. Although the knowledge that they were nearing land had already given the officers and men a feeling of elation, the feeling was greatly intensified as they came through the Turk Island Passage, which is a kind of gateway to the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. The glory of the sunny, tropical world was upon the ship and upon the sea; it crept into the blood of every man, and the sweet summer weather gave confidence to their minds. It was a day which only those who know tropical and semitropical seas can understand. It had the sense of soaking luxury.
In his cabin, with the ship's chart on the table before him, Dyck Calhoun studied the course of the Ariadne. The wind was fair and good, the sea- birds hovered overhead. From a distant part of the ship came the sound of men's voices in song. They were singing "Spanish Ladies":
"We hove our ship to when the wind was sou'west, boys, We hove our ship to for to strike soundings clear; Then we filled our main tops'l and bore right away, boys, And right up the Channel our course did we steer.
"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors, We'll range and we'll roam over all the salt seas, Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England From Ushant to Scilly 'tis thirty-five leagues."
Dyck raised his head, and a smile came to his lips.
"Yes, you sing of a Channel, my lads, but it's a long way there, as you'll find. I hope to God they give us some fighting! . . . Well, what is it?" he asked of a marine who appeared in his doorway.
"The master of the ship begs to see you, sir," was the reply.
A moment afterwards Greenock entered. He asked Dyck several questions concerning the possible fighting, the disposition of ammunition and all that, and said at last:
"I think we shall be of use, sir. The ship's all right now."
"As right as anything human can be. I've got faith in my star, master."
A light came into the other man's dour face. "I wish you'd get into uniform, sir."
"Uniform? No, Greenock! No, I use the borrowed power, but not the borrowed clothes. I'm a common sailor, and I wear the common sailor's clothes. You've earned your uniform, and it suits you. Stick to it; and when I've earned a captain's uniform I'll wear it. I owe you the success of this voyage so far, and my heart is full of it, up to the brim. Hark, what's that?"
"By God, it's guns, sir! There's fighting on!"
Dyck stood for a minute with head thrust forward, eyes fixed upon the distant mists ahead. The rumble of the guns came faintly through the air. An exultant look came into his face.
"Master, the game's with us—it is fighting! I know the difference between the two sets of guns, English and French. Listen—that quick, spasmodic firing is French; the steady-as-thunder is English. Well, we've got all sail on. Now, make ready the ship for fighting."
"She's almost ready, sir."
An hour later the light mist had risen, and almost suddenly the Ariadne seemed to come into the field of battle. Dyck Calhoun could see the struggle going on. The two sets of enemy ships had come to close quarters, and some were locked in deadly conflict. Other ships, still apart, fired at point-blank range, and all the horrors of slaughter were in full swing. From the square blue flag at the mizzen top gallant masthead of one of the British ships engaged, Dyck saw that the admiral's own craft was in some peril. The way lay open for the Ariadne to bear down upon the French ship, engaged with the admiral's smaller ship, and help to end the struggle successfully for the British cause.
While still too far away for point-blank range, the Ariadne's guns began upon the French ships distinguishable by their shape and their colours. Before the first shot was fired, however, Dyck made a tour of the decks and gave some word of cheer to the men, The Ariadne lost no time in getting into the thick of the fight. The seamen were stripped to the waist, and black silk handkerchiefs were tightly bound round their heads and over their ears.
What the French thought of the coming of the Ariadne was shown by the reply they made presently to her firing. The number of French ships in action was greater than the British by six, and the Ariadne arrived just when she could be of greatest service. The boldness of her seamanship, and the favour of the wind, gave her an advantage which good fortune helped to justify.
As she drew in upon the action, she gave herself up to great danger; she was coming in upon the rear of the French ships, and was subject to fierce attack. To the French she seemed like a fugitive warrior returning to his camp just when he was most needed, as was indeed the case. Two of her shots settled one of the enemy's vessels; and before the others could converge upon her, she had crawled slowly up against the off side of the French admiral's ship, which was closely engaged with the Beatitude, the British flagship, on the other side.
The canister, chain-shot, and langrel of the French foe had caused much injury to the Ariadne, and her canvas was in a sore plight. Fifty of her seamen had been killed, and a hundred and fifty were wounded by the time she reached the starboard side of the Aquitaine. She would have lost many more were it not that her onset demoralized the French gunners, while the cheers of the British sailors aboard the Beatitude gave confidence to their mutineer comrades.
On his own deck, Dyck watched the progress of the battle with the joy of a natural fighter. He had carried the thing to an almost impossible success. There had only been this in his favour, that his was an unexpected entrance—a fact which had been worth another ship at least. He saw his boarders struggle for the Aquitaine. He saw them discharge their pistols, and then resort to the cutlass and the dagger; and the marines bringing down their victims from the masts of the French flag- ship.
Presently he heard the savagely buoyant shouts of the Beatitude men, and he realized that, by his coming, the admiral of the French fleet had been obliged to yield up his sword, and to signal to his ships—such as could —to get away. That half of them succeeded in doing so was because the British fleet had been heavily handled in the fight, and would have been defeated had it not been for the arrival of the Ariadne.
Never, perhaps, in the history of the navy had British ships clamped the enemy as the Aquitaine was clamped by the Beatitude and the Ariadne. Certain it is that no admiral of the British fleet had ever to perform two such acts in one day as receiving the submission of a French admiral and offering thanks to the captain of a British man-of-war whom, while thanking, he must at once place under arrest as a mutineer. What might have chanced further to Dyck's disadvantage can never be known, because there appeared on the deck of the Beatitude, as its captain under the rear-admiral, Captain Ivy, who, five years before, had visited Dyck and his father at Playmore, and had gone with them to Dublin.
The admiral had sent word to the Ariadne for its captain to come to the Beatitude. When the captain's gig arrived, and a man in seaman's clothes essayed to climb the side of the flag-ship, he was at first prevented. Captain Ivy, however, immediately gave orders for Dyck to be admitted, but without honours.
On the deck of the Beatitude, Dyck looked into the eyes of Captain Ivy. He saluted; but the captain held out a friendly hand.
"You're a mutineer, Calhoun, but your ship has given us victory. I'd like to shake hands with one that's done so good a stroke for England."
A queer smile played about Calhoun's lips.
"I've brought the Ariadne back to the fleet, Captain Ivy. The men have fought as well as men ever did since Britain had a navy. I've brought her back to the king's fleet to be pardoned."
"But you must be placed under arrest, Calhoun. Those are the orders— that wherever the Ariadne should be found she should be seized, and that you should be tried by court-martial."
Dyck nodded. "I understand. When did you get word?"
"About forty-eight hours ago. The king's mail came by a fast frigate."
"We took our time, but we came straight from the Channel to find this fleet. At the mouth of the Thames we willed to find it, and to fight with it—and by good luck so we have done."
"Let me take you to the admiral," said Captain Ivy.
He walked beside Dyck to the admiral's cabin. "You've made a terrible mess of things, Calhoun, but you've put a lot right to-day," he said at the entrance to the cabin. "Tell me one thing honestly before we part now—did you kill Erris Boyne?" Dyck looked at him long and hard.
"I don't know—on my honour I don't know! I don't remember—I was drunk and drugged."
"Calhoun, I don't believe you did; but if you did, you've paid the price —and the price of mutiny, too." In the clear blue eyes of Captain Ivy there was a look of friendliness. "I notice you don't wear uniform, Calhoun," he added. "I mean a captain's uniform." Dyck smiled. "I never have."
The next moment the door of the admiral's cabin was opened.
"Mr. Dyck Calhoun of the Ariadne, sir," said Captain Ivy.
THE ADMIRAL HAS HIS SAY
The admiral's face was naturally vigorous and cheerful, but, as he looked at Dyck Calhoun, a steely hardness came into it, and gave a cynical twist to the lips. He was a short man, and spare, but his bearing had dignity and every motion significance.
He had had his high moment with the French admiral, had given his commands to the fleet and had arranged the disposition of the captured French ships. He was in good spirits, and the wreckage in the fleet seemed not to shake his nerve, for he had lost in men far less than the enemy, and had captured many ships—a good day's work, due finally to the man in sailor's clothes standing there with Captain Ivy. The admiral took in the dress of Calhoun at a glance—the trousers of blue cloth, the sheath-knife belt, the stockings of white silk, the white shirt with the horizontal stripes, the loose, unstarched, collar, the fine black silk handkerchief at the throat, the waistcoat of red kerseymere, the shoes like dancing-pumps, and the short, round blue jacket, with the flat gold buttons—a seaman complete. He smiled broadly; he liked this mutineer and ex-convict.
"Captain Calhoun, eh!" he remarked mockingly, and bowed satirically. "Well, you've played a strong game, and you've plunged us into great difficulty."
Dyck did not lose his opportunity. "Happily, I've done what I planned to do when we left the Thames, admiral," he said. "We came to get the chance of doing what, by favour of fate, we have accomplished. Now, sir, as I'm under arrest, and the ship which I controlled has done good service, may I beg that the Ariadne's personnel shall have amnesty, and that I alone be made to pay—if that must be—for the mutiny at the Nore."
The admiral nodded. "We know of your breaking away from the mutinous fleet, and of their firing on you as you passed, and that is in your favour. I can also say this: that bringing the ship here was masterly work, for I understand there were no officers on the Ariadne. She always had the reputation of being one of the best-trained ships in the navy, and she has splendidly upheld that reputation. How did you manage it, Mr. Calhoun?"
Dyck briefly told how the lieutenants were made, and how he himself had been enormously indebted to Greenock, the master of the ship, and all the subordinate officers.
The admiral smiled sourly. "I have little power until I get instructions from the Admiralty, and that will take some time. Meanwhile, the Ariadne shall go on as she is, and as if she were—and had been from the first, a member of my own squadron."
Dyck bowed, explained what reforms he had created in the food and provisions of the Ariadne, and expressed a hope that nothing should be altered. He said the ship had proved herself, chiefly because of his reforms.
"Besides, she's been badly hammered. She's got great numbers of wounded and dead, and for many a day the men will be busy with repairs."
"For a man without naval experience, for a mutineer, an ex-convict and a usurper, you've done quite well, Mr. Calhoun; but my instructions were, if I captured your ship, and you fell into my hands, to try you, and hang you."
At this point Captain Ivy intervened.
"Sir," he said, "the instructions you received were general. They could not anticipate the special service which the Ariadne has rendered to the king's fleet. I have known Mr. Calhoun; I have visited at his father's house; I was with him on his journey to Dublin, which was the beginning of his bad luck. I would beg of you, sir, to give Mr. Calhoun his parole on sea and land until word comes from the Admiralty as to what, in the circumstances, his fate shall be."
"To be kept on the Beatitude on parole!" exclaimed the admiral.
"Land or sea, Captain Ivy said. I'm as well-born as any man in the king's fleet," declared Dyck. "I've as clean a record as any officer in his majesty's navy, save for the dark fact that I was put in prison for killing a man; and I will say here, in the secrecy of an admiral's cabin, that the man I killed—or was supposed to kill—was a traitor. If I did kill him, he deserved death by whatever hand it came. I care not what you do with me"—his hands clenched, his shoulders drew up, his eyes blackened with the dark fire of his soul—"whether you put me on parole, or try me by court-martial, or hang me from the yard-arm. I've done a piece of work of which I'm not ashamed. I've brought a mutinous ship out of mutiny, sailed her down the seas for many weeks, disciplined her, drilled her, trained her, fought her; helped to give the admiral of the West Indian squadron his victory. I enlisted; I was a quota man. I became a common sailor—I and my servant and friend, Michael Clones. I shared the feelings of the sailors who mutinied. I wrote petitions and appeals for them. I mutinied with them. Then at last, having been made leader of the ship, with the captain and the lieutenants sent safely ashore, and disagreeing with the policy of the Delegates in not accepting the terms offered, I brought the ship out, commanding it from the captain's cabin, and have so continued until to-day. If I'm put ashore at Jamaica, I'll keep my parole; if I stay a prisoner here, I'll keep my parole. If I've done you service, admiral, be sure of this, it was done with clear intent. My object was to save the men who, having mutinied and fled from Admiralty control, are subject to capital punishment."
"Your thinking came late. You should have thought before you mutinied," was the sharp reply.
"As a common sailor I acted on my conscience, and what we asked for the Admiralty has granted. Only by mutiny did the Admiralty yield to our demands. What I did I would do again! We took our risks in the Thames against the guns that were levelled at us; we've taken our risks down here against the French to help save your squadron, and we've done it. The men have done it, because they've been loyal to the flag, and from first to last set to make the Admiralty and the people know they have rights which must be cherished. If all your men were as faithful to the Crown as are the men on the Ariadne, then they deserve well of the King. But will you put for me on paper the written word that every man now aboard the Ariadne shall be held guiltless in the eyes of the admiral of this fleet; that the present officers shall remain officers, that the reforms I have made shall become permanent? For myself, I care not; but for the men who have fought under me, I want their amnesty. And I want Michael Clones to be kept with me, and Greenock, the master, and Ferens, the purser, to be kept where they are. Admiral, I think you know my demands are just. Over there on the Ariadne are a hundred and fifty wounded at least, and fifty have been killed. Let the living not suffer."
"You want it all on the nail, don't you?"
"I want it at this moment when the men who have fought under me have helped to win your battle, sir." There was something so set in Dyck's voice that the admiral had a sudden revulsion against him, yet, after a moment of thought, he made a sign to Captain Ivy. Then he dictated the terms which Dyck had asked, except as to the reforms he had made, which was not in his power to do, save for the present.
When the document had been signed by the admiral, Dyck read the contents aloud. It embodied nearly all he had asked.
"Now I ask permission for one more thing only, sir—for the new captain of the Ariadne to go with me to her, and there I will read this paper to the crew. I will give a copy of it to the new captain, whoever he may be."
The admiral stood for a moment in thought. Then he said:
"Ivy, I transfer you to the Ariadne. It's better that some one who understands, as you do, should be in control after Calhoun has gone. Go with him now, and have your belongings sent to you. I appoint you temporary captain of the Ariadne, because I think no one could deal with the situation there so wisely. Ivy, every ship in the squadron must treat the Ariadne respectfully. Within two days, Mr. Calhoun, you shall be landed at Jamaica, there to await the Admiralty decree. I will say this: that as the sure victory of our fleet has come through you, you shall not suffer in my report. Fighting is not an easy trade, and to fight according to the rules is a very hard trade. Let me ask you to conduct yourself as a prisoner of war on parole."
By Gilbert Parker
XVI. A LETTER XVII. STRANGERS ARRIVE XVIII. AT SALEM XIX. LORD MALLOW INTERVENES XX. OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE PHILISTINES XXI. THE CLASH OF RACE XXII. SHEILA HAS HER SAY XXIII. THE COMING OF NOREEN XXIV. WITH THE GOVERNOR XXV. THEN WHAT HAPPENED
With a deep sigh, the planter raised his head from the table where he was writing, and looked out upon the lands he had made his own. They lay on the Thomas River, a few hours' horseback travelling from Spanish Town, the capital, and they had the advantage of a plateau formation, with mountains in the far distance and ravines everywhere.
It was Christmas Day, and he had done his duty to his slaves and the folk on his plantation. He had given presents, had attended a seven o'clock breakfast of his people, had seen festivities of his negroes, and the feast given by his manager in Creole style to all who came—planting attorneys, buccras, overseers, bookkeepers, the subordinates of the local provost-marshal, small planters, and a few junior officers of the army and navy.
He had turned away with cynicism from the overladen table, with its shoulder of stewed wild boar in the centre; with its chocolate, coffee, tea, spruce-beer, cassava-cakes, pigeon-pies, tongues, round of beef, barbecued hog, fried conchs, black crab pepper-pod, mountain mullet, and acid fruits. It was so unlike what his past had known, so "damnable luxurious!" Now his eyes wandered over the space where were the grandilla, with its blossom like a passion-flower, the black Tahiti plum, with its bright pink tassel-blossom, and the fine mango trees, loaded half with fruit and half with bud. In the distance were the guinea cornfields of brownish hue, the cotton-fields, the long ranges of negro houses like thatched cottages, the penguin hedges, with their beautiful red, blue, and white convolvuluses; the lime, logwood, and breadfruit trees, the avocado-pear, the feathery bamboo, and the jack-fruit tree; and between the mountains and his own sugar-estates, negro settlements and pens. He heard the flight of parrots chattering, he watched the floating humming-bird, and at last he fixed his eyes upon the cabbage tree down in the garden, and he had an instant desire for it. It was a natural and human taste—the cabbage from the tree-top boiled for a simple yet sumptuous meal.
He liked simplicity. He did not, as so many did in Jamaica, drink claret or punch at breakfast soon after sunrise. In a land where all were bon- vivants, where the lowest tradesmen drank wine after dinner, and rum, brandy and water, or sangaree in the forenoon, a somewhat lightsome view of table-virtues might have been expected of the young unmarried planter. For such was he who, from the windows of his "castle," saw his domain shimmering in the sun of a hot December day.
It was Dyck Calhoun.
With an impatient air he took up the sheets that he had been reading. Christmas Day was on his nerves. The whole town of Kingston, with its twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants, had but one church. If he entered it, even to-day, he would have seen no more than a hundred and fifty to two hundred people; mostly mulattoes—"bronze ornaments"—and peasants in shag trousers, jackets of coarse blue cloth, and no waistcoats, with one or two magistrates, a dozen gentlemen or so, and probably twice that number of ladies. It was not an island given over to piety, or to religious habits.
Not that this troubled Dyck Calhoun; nor, indeed, was he shocked by the fact that nearly every unmarried white man in the island, and many married white men, had black mistresses and families born to the black women, and that the girls had no married future. They would become the temporary wives of white men, to whom they were on the whole faithful and devoted. It did not even vex him that a wretched mulatto might be whipped in the market-square for laying his hands upon a white man, and that if he was a negro-slave he could be shot for the same liberty.
It all belonged to the abnormal conditions of an island where black and white were in relations impossible in the countries from which the white man had come. It did not even startle Dyck that all the planters, and the people generally in the island, from the chief justice and custos rotulorum down to the deckswabber, cultivated amplitude of living.
But let Dyck tell his own story. The papers he held were sheets of a letter he was writing to one from whom he had heard nothing since the night he enlisted in the navy, and that was nearly three years before. This was the letter:
MY DEAR FRIEND:
You will see I address you as you have done me in the two letters I have had from you in the past. You will never read this letter, but I write it as if you would. For you must know I may never hope for personal intercourse with you. I was imprisoned for killing your father, Erris Boyne, and that separates us like an abysss. It matters little whether I killed him or not; the law says I did, and the law has taken its toll of me. I was in prison for four years, and when freed I enlisted in the king's navy, a quota man, with my servant-friend, Michael Clones. That was the beginning of painful and wonderful days for me. I was one of the mutineers of the Nore, and—
Here followed a description of the days he had spent on the Ariadne and before, and of all that happened down to the time when he was arrested by the admiral in the West Indian Sea. He told how he was sent over to the Ariadne with Captain Ivy to read the admiral's letter to the seamen, and then, by consent of the admiral, to leave again with Michael Clones for Jamaica, where he was set ashore with twenty pounds in his pocket—and not on parole, by the admiral's command. Here the letter shall again take up the story, and be a narrative of Dyck Calhoun's life from that time until this Christmas Day.
What to do was the question. I knew no one in Jamaica—no one at all except the governor, Lord Mallow, and him I had fought with swords in Phoenix Park five years before. I had not known he was governor here. I came to know it when I first saw him riding over the unpaved street into Kingston from Spanish Town with his suite, ornate with his governorship. He was a startling figure in scarlet, with huge epaulets on his lieutenant-general's uniform, as big a pot as ever boiled on any fire-chancellor, head of the government and of the army, master of the legislature, judging like one o'clock in the court of chancery, controller of the affairs of civil life, and maker of a policy of which he alone can judge who knows what interests clash in the West Indies.
English, French, Spanish, and Dutch are all hereabout. All struggle for place above the other in the world of commerce and society, though chiefly it is the English versus the French in these days; and the policy of the governor is the policy of the country. He never knows whether there will be a French naval descent or whether the blacks in his own island will do as the blacks in St. Domingo did—massacre the white people in thousands. Or whether the free blacks, the Maroons, who got their freedom by treaty with Governor Trelawney, when the British commander changed hats with Cudjoe, the Maroon chief, as the sealing of the bargain—whether they will rise again, as they before have risen, and bring terror into the white settlement; and whether, in that case, all negro-slaves will join them, and Jamaica become a land of revolution.
Of what good, then, will be the laws lately passed regulating the control of slaves, securing them rights never given before, even forbidding lashes beyond forty-nine! Of what use, then, the punishment of owners who have ill-used the slaves? The local councils who have power to punish never proceed against white men with rigour; and to preserve a fair balance between the white man up above and the black down below is the responsibility of the fair- minded governor. If, like Mallow, he is not fair-minded, then is the lash the heavier, and the governor has burdens greater than could easily be borne in lands where the climate is more friendly.
Lord Mallow did not see me when I passed him in the street, but he soon came to know of me from the admiral and Captain Ivy, who told him all my story since I was freed from jail. Then he said I should be confined in a narrow space near to Kingston, and should have no freedom; but the admiral had his way, and I was given freedom of the whole island till word should come from the Admiralty what should be done with me. To the governor's mind it was dangerous allowing me freedom, a man convicted of crime, who had been imprisoned, had been a mutineer, had stolen one of his majesty's ships, and had fled to the Caribbean Sea. He thought I should well be at the bottom of the ocean, where he would soon have put me, I make no doubt, if it had not been for the admiral, and Captain Ivy—you do not know him, I think—who played a good part to me, when men once close friends have deserted me.
Well, we had, Michael and I, but twenty pounds between us; and if there was not plenty of free food in the island, God knows what would have become of us! But there it was, fresh in every field, by every wayside, at every doorway. We could not starve, or die of thirst, or faint for lack of sleep, since every bush was a bed in spite of the garapatos or wood-ticks, the snore of the tree-toad, the hoarse shriek of the macaw, and the shrill gird of the guinea- fowl. Every bed was thus free, and there was land to be got for a song, enough to grow what would suffice for two men's daily wants. But we did not rest long upon the land—I have it still, land which cost me five pounds out of the twenty, and for the rest there was an old but on the little place—five acres it was, and good land too, where you could grow anything at all. Heaven knows what we might have become in that tiny plantation, for I was sick of life, and the mosquitos and flying ants, and the chattering parroquets, the grim gallinazo, and the quatre, or native bed—a wooden frame and canvas; but one day at Kingston I met a man, one Cassandro Biatt, who had an obsession for adventure, and he spoke to me privately. He said he knew me from people's talk, and would I listen to him? What was there to do? He was a clean-cut rogue, if ever there was one, but a rogue of parts, as he proved; and I lent an ear.
Now, what think you was his story? Well, but this—that off the coast of Haiti, there was a ship which had been sunk with every man on board, and with the ship was treasure without counting-jewels belonging once to a Spaniard of high place, who was taking them to Paris. His box had been kept in the captain's cabin, and it could be found, no doubt, and brought to the surface. Even if that were not possible, there was plenty of gold on the ship, and every piece of it was good money. There had been searching for the ship, but none had found it; but he, Cassandro Biatt, had sure knowledge, got from an obi-man, of the place where it lay. It would not be an expensive business, but, cheap as it was, he had no means of raising cash for the purpose; while I could, no doubt, raise the needed money if I set about it. That was how he put it to me. Would I do it? It was not with me a case of "no shots left in the locker, no copper to tinkle on a tombstone." I was not down to my last macaroni, or quarter-dollar; but I drank some sangaree and set about to do it. I got my courage from a look towards Rodney's statue in its temple—Rodney did a great work for Jamaica against Admiral de Grasse.
Why should I tell Biatt the truth about myself? He knew it. Cassandro was an accomplished liar, and a man of merit of his kind. This obi-man's story I have never believed; yet how Biatt came to know where that treasure-ship was I do not know now.
Yes, out we went through the harbour of Kingston, beyond the splendid defences of Port Royal and the men-of-war there, past the Palisadoes and Rock Fort, and away to the place of treasure-trove. We found it—that lost galleon; and we found the treasure-box of the captain's cabin. We found gold too; but the treasure-box was the chief thing; and we made it ours after many a hard day. Three months it was from the day Biatt first spoke to me to the day when, with an expert diver, we brought the box to the surface and opened it.
How I induced one of the big men of Jamaica to be banker and skipper for us need not be told; but he is one of whom men have dark sayings—chiefly, I take it, because he does bold, incomprehensible things. That business paid him well, for when the rent of the ship was met, and the few men on it paid—slaves they were chiefly—he pocketed ten thousand pounds, while Biatt and I each pouched forty thousand, and Michael two thousand. Aye, to be sure, Michael was in it! He is in all I do, and is as good as men of ten times his birth and history. Michael will be a rich man one day. In two years his two thousand have grown to four, and he misses no chance.
But those days when Biatt and I went treasure-ship hunting were not without their trials. If we had failed, then no more could this land have been home or resting-place for us. We should only have been sojourners with no name, in debt, in disgrace, a pair of braggart adventurers, who had worked a master-man of the island for a ship, and money and men, and had lost all except the ship! Though to be sure, the money was not a big thing—a, few hundred pounds; but the ship was no flea-bite. It was a biggish thing, for it could be rented to carry sugar—it was, in truth, a sugar-ship of four hundred tons—but it never carried so big a cargo of sugar as it did on the day when that treasure-box was brought to the surface of the sea.
I'm bound to say this—one of the straightest men I ever met, liar withal, was Cassandro Biatt. He took his jewels and vanished up the seas in a flourish. He would not even have another try at the gold in the bowels of the ship.
"I've got plenty to fill my paunch, and I'll go while I've enough. It's the men not going in time that get left in the end"—that's what he said.
And he was right; for other men went after the gold and got some of it, and were caught by French and South American pirates and lost all they had gained. Still another group went and brought away ten thousand pounds, and lost it in fighting with Spanish buccaneers. So Biatt was right, and went away content, while I stayed here— because I must—and bought the land and house where I have my great sugar-plantation. It is an enterprise of volume, and all would be well if I were normal in mind and body; but I am not. I have a past that stinks to heaven, as Shakespeare says, and I am an outlaw of the one land which has all my soul and name and heritage. Yes, that is what they have done to me—made a convict, an outlaw of me. I may live—but not in the British Isles; and if any man kills me, he is not liable to the law.
Men do not treat me badly here, for I have property and money, and this is a land where these two things mean more than anywhere else, even more than in a republic like that where you live. Here men live according to the law of the knife, fork, and bottle, yet nowhere in the world is there deeper national morality or wider faith or endurance. It is a land where the sea is master, where naval might is the chief factor, and weighs down all else.
Here the navies of the great powers meet and settle their disputes, and every being in the island knows that life is only worth what a hundred-ton brig-of-war permits. I have seen here in Jamaica the off-scourings of the French and Spanish fleets on parole; have seen them entering King's House like loyal citizens; have even known of French prisoners being used as guards at the entrance of King's House, and I have informed the chief justice of dismal facts which ought to have moved him. But what can you expect of a chief justice who need not be a lawyer, as this one is not, and has other means of earning income which, though not disloyal, are lowering to the status of a chief justice? And not the chief justice alone. I have seen French officers entertained at Government House who were guilty of shocking inhumanities and cruelties. The governor, Lord Mallow, is much to blame. On him lies the responsibility; to him must go the discredit. For myself, I feel his enmity on every hand. I suffer from his suggestions; I am the victim of his dark moods.
If I want a concession from a local council, his hand is at work against me; if I see him in the street, I get a courtesy tossed, as you would toss a bone to a dog. If I appear at the king's ball, which is open to all on the island who are respectable, I am treated with such disdain by the viceroy of the king that all the island is agog. I went one day to the king's ball the same as the rest of the world, and I went purposely in dress contrary to the regulations. Here was the announcement of the affair in the Royal Gazette, which was reproduced in the Chronicle, the one important newspaper in the island:
KING'S HOUSE, October 27th, 1797.
There will be a Ball given by His Honour the Lieutenant- Governor, on Tuesday evening, the 6th day of December next, in honour of
HIS MAJESTY'S BIRTHDAY.
To prevent confusion, Ladies and Gentlemen are requested to order their carriages to come by the Old Court House, and go off by the Long Room.
N.B.—No gentlemen can possibly be admitted in boots, or otherwise improperly dressed.
Well, in a spirit of mutiny—in which I am, in a sense, an expert— I went in boots and otherwise "improperly dressed," for I wore my hair in a queue, like a peasant. What is more, I danced with a negress in the great quadrille, and thereby offended the governor and his lady aunt, who presides at his palace. It matters naught to me. On my own estate it was popular enough, and that meant more to me than this goodwill of Lord Mallow.
He does not spare me in his recitals to his friends, who carry his speech abroad. His rancour against me is the greater, I know, because of the wealth I got in the treasure-ship, to prevent which he tried to prohibit my leaving the island, through the withholding of a leave-ticket to me. His argument to the local authorities was that I had no rights, that I am a murderer and a mutineer, and confined to the island, though not on parole. He almost succeeded; but the man to whom I went, the big rich man intervened, successfully—how I know not—and I was let go with my permit- ticket.
What big things hang on small issues! If my Lord Mallow had prevented me leaving the island, I shouldn't now own a great plantation and three hundred negroes. I shouldn't be able to pay my creditors in good gold Portuguese half-johannes and Spanish doubloons, and be free of Spanish silver, and give no heed to the bitt, which, as you perhaps know, is equal to fivepence in British money, such as you and I used to spend when you were Queen of Ireland and I was your slave.
Then I worshipped you as few women have been worshipped in all the days of the world—oh, cursed spite of life and time that I should have been jailed for killing your bad father! Aye, he was a bad man, and he is better in his grave than out of it, but it puts a gulf between you and me which nothing will ever bridge—unless it should some day be known I did not kill him, and then, no doubt, it will be too late.
On my soul, I don't believe I put my sword into him; but if I did, he well deserved it, for he was worse than faithless to your mother, he was faithless to his country—he was a traitor! I did not tell that story of his treachery in court—I did not tell it because of you. You did not deserve such infamy, and the truth came not out at the trial. I, in my view, dared not, lest it might injure you, and you had suffered enough—nay, more than enough—through him.
I wonder how you are, and if you have changed—I mean in appearance. I am sure you are not married; I should have felt it in my bones, if you were. No, no, my sweet lass, you are not married. But think—it is more than seven long years since we met on the hills above Playmore, and you put your hand in mine and said we should be friends for all time. It is near three years since a letter came to me from you, and in the time I have made progress.
I did not go to the United States, as you asked me to do. Is it not plain I could not? My only course was to avoid you. You see, your mother knows the truth—knows that I was jailed for killing your father and her divorced husband. Therefore, the only way to do was as I did. I could not go where you were. There should be hid from you the fact that Erris Boyne was a traitor. This is your right, in my mind. Looking back, I feel sure I could have escaped jail if I had told what I knew of Erris Boyne; and perhaps it would have been better, for I should, no doubt, have been acquitted. Yet I could not have gone to you, for I am not sure I did not kill him.
So it is best as it is. We are as we are, and nothing can make all different for us. I am a dissolute planter of Jamaica who has snatched from destiny a living and some riches. I have a bad name in the world. Yet by saving the king's navy from defeat out here I did a good turn for my country and the empire.
So much to the good. It brought me freedom from the rope and pardon for my chief offence. Then, in company with a rogue, I got wealth from the depths of the sea, and here I am in the bottom of my luxury, drunken and obscene—yes, obscene, for I permit my overseers and my manager to keep black women and have children by them. That I do not do so myself is no virtue on my part, but the virtue of a girl whom I knew in Connemara. I fill myself with drink. I have a bottle of madeira or port every night, and pints of beer or claret. I am a creature of low habits, a man sodden with self-indulgence. And when I am in drink, no slaver can be more cruel and ruthless.
Yet I am moderate in eating. The meals that people devour here almost revolt me. They eat like cormorants and drink like dry ground; but at my table I am careful, save with the bottle. This is a land of wonderful fruits, and I eat in quantities pineapple, tamarind, papaw, guava, sweet-sop, star-apple, granadilla, hog-plum, Spanish-gooseberry, and pindal-nut. These are native, but there are also the orange, lemon, lime, shaddock, melon, fig, pomegranate, cinnamon, and mango, brought chiefly from the Spanish lands of South America. The fruit-market here is good, Heaven knows, and I have my run of it. Perhaps that is why my drink does not fatten me greatly. Yes, I am thin—thinner even than when you saw me last. How wonderful a day it was! You remember it, I'm sure.
We stood on the high hills, you and I, looking to the west. It was a true Irish day. A little in front of us, in the sky, were great clusters of clouds, and beyond them, as far as eye could see, were hills so delicately green, so spotted with settlements, so misty and full of glamour, and so cheerful with the western light. And the storm broke—do you remember it? It broke, but not on us. It fell on the middle of the prospect before us, and we saw beyond it the bright area of sunny country where men work and prophesy and slave, and pray to the ancient gods and acclaim the saints, and die and fructify the mould; where such as Christopher Dogan live, and men a thousand times lower than he. Christopher came to the jail the day I was released—with Michael Clones he came. He read me my bill of life's health—what was to become of me—the black and the white of it, the good and the bad, the fair and the foul. Even the good fortune of the treasure from the sea he foresaw, and much else that has not come to me, and, as I think, will never come; for it is too full a cup for me so little worthy of it.
It seems strange to me that I am as near to the United States here in Jamaica, or almost as near, as one in London is to one in Dublin; and yet one might as well be ten thousand leagues distant for all it means to her one loves in the United States. Yes, dear Sheila, I love you, and I would tear out the heart of the world for you. I bathe my whole being in your beauty and your charm. I hunger for you—to stand beside you, to listen to your voice, to dip my prison fingers into the pure cauldron of your soul and feel my own soul expand. I wonder why it is that to-day I feel more than I ever felt before the rare splendour of your person.
I have always admired you and loved you, always heard you calling me, as if from some sacred corner of a perfect world. Is it that yesterday's dissipation—yes, I was drunk yesternight, drunk in a new way. I was drunk with the thought of you, the longing for you. I picked a big handful of roses, and in my mind gave them into your hands. And I thought you smiled and said:
"Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter Paradise." So I followed you to your home there in the Virginian country. It was a dream, all except the roses, and those I laid in front of the box where I keep your letters and a sketch I made of you when we were young and glad—when I was young and glad. For I am an old man, Sheila, in all that makes men old. My step is quick still, my eye is sharp, and my brain beats fast, but my heart is ancient. I am an ancient of days, without hope or pleasure, save what pleasure comes in thinking of one whom I worship, yet must ever worship from afar.
I wonder why I seem to feel you very near to-day! Perhaps it's because 'tis Christmas Day. I am not a religious man but Christmas is a day of memories.
Is it because of the past in Ireland? Am I only—God, am I only to be what I am for the rest of my days, a planter denied the pleasure of home by his own acts! Am I only a helpless fragment of a world of lost things?
I have no friends—but yes, I have. I have Michael Clones and Captain Ivy, though he's far away-aye, he's a friend of friends, is Captain Ivy. These naval folk have had so much of the world, have got the bearings of so many seas, that they lose all littleness, and form their own minds. They are not like the people who knew me in Ireland—the governor here is one of them—and who believe the worst of me. The governor—faugh, he was made for bigger and better things! He is one of the best swordsmen in the world, and he is out against me here as if I was a man of importance, and not a commonplace planter on an obscure river. I have no social home life, and yet I live in what is called a castle. A Jamaica castle has none of the marks of antiquity, chivalry, and distinction which castles that you and I know in the old land possess.
What is my castle like? Well, it is a squarish building, of bungalow type, set on a hill. It has stories and an attic, with a jutting dormer-window in the front of the roof; and above the lowest story there is a great verandah, on which the livingrooms and bedrooms open. It is commodious, and yet from a broad standpoint it is without style or distinction. It has none of those Corinthian pillars which your homesteads in America have. Yet there is in it a simple elegance. It has no carpets, but a shining mahogany floor, for there are few carpets in this land of heat. It is a place where music and mirth and family voices would be fitting; but there are no family voices here, save such as speak with a negro lisp and oracularly.
I can hear music at this moment, and inside my castle. It comes from the irrepressible throats of my cook and my housemaid, who have more joy in the language of the plantation than you could have in the songs of St. Angelus. The only person in this castle out of spirits is its owner.
My castle is embowered in a loose grove of palms and acacias, pimento shrubs, spendid star-apples, and bully-trees, with wild lemon, mahogany, dogwood, Jerusalem-thorn, and the waving plumes of bamboo canes. There is nothing British in it—nothing at all. It stands on brick pillars, is reached by a stair of marble slabs, and has a great piazza on the front. You enter a fine, big hall, dark- you will understand that, though it is not so hot in Virginia, for the darkness makes for coolness. From the hall the bedrooms open all round. We are not so barbaric here as you might think, for my dining-room, which lies beyond the hall, with jalousies or movable blinds, exposed to all the winds, is comfortable, even ornate. There you shall see waxlights on the table, and finger-glasses with green leaves, and fine linen and napkins, and plenty of silver—even silver wine-coolers, and beakers of fame and beauty, and flowers, flowers everywhere, and fruit of exquisite charm. I have to live in outward seeming as do my neighbours, even to keeping a black footman, gorgeously dressed, with bare legs.
Here at my window grows a wild aloe, and it is in flower. Once only in fifty years does this aloe flower, and I pick its sweet verdure now and offer it to you. There it lies, beside this letter that I am writing. It is typical of myself, for only once has my heart flowered, and it will be only once in fifty years. The perfume of the flower is like an everlasting bud from the last tree of Time. See, my Sheila, your drunken, reckless lover pulls this sweet offering from his garden and offers it to you. He has no virtues; and yet he would have been a thousand times worse, if you had not come into his life. He had in him the seeds of trouble, the sproutings of shame, for even in the first days of his love there in Dublin he would not restrain himself. He drank, he played cards, he fought and went with bad company—not women, never that; but he kept the company of those through whom he came at last to punishment for manslaughter.
Yet, without you, who can tell what he might have been? He might have fallen so low that not the wealth of ten thousand treasure- boxes could give him even the appearance of honesty. And now he offers you what you cannot accept—can never accept—a love as deep as the life from which he came; a love that would throttle the world for you, that would force the doors of hell to bring you what you want.
What do you want? I know not. Perhaps you have inherited the vast property to which you were the heir. If you have, what can you want that you have not means to procure? Ah, I have learned one thing, my friend 'one can get nearly everything with money. It is the hidden machinery which makes the world of success go round. With brains, you say? Yes, money and brains, but without the money brains seldom win alone. Do not I know? When I was in prison, with estate vanished and home gone and my father in his grave, who was concerned about me?
Only the humblest of all God's Irish people; but with them I have somehow managed to win back lost ground. I am a stronger man than I was in all that men count of value in the world. I have an estate where I work like any youth who has everything before him. I have nothing before me, yet I shall go on working to the end. Why? Because I have some faculties which are more than bread and butter, and I must give them opportunity.
Yet I am not always sane. Sometimes I feel I could march out and sweep into the sea one of the towns that dot the coast of this island. I have the bloody thirst, as said the great Spanish conquistador. I would like—yes, sometimes I would like to sweep to a watery grave one of the towns that are a glory to this island, as Savanna la Mar was swept to oblivion in the year 1780 by a hurricane. You can still see the ruins of the town at the bottom of the sea—I have sailed over it in what is now the harbour, and there beneath, on the deep sands, lost to time and trouble, is the slain and tortured town of Savanna la Mar. Was the Master of the World angry that day when, with a besom of wind and a tidal wave, He swept the place into the sea? Or was it some devil's work while the Lord of All slept? As the Spanish say, Quien sabe?
Then there was that other enormous incident which made a man to be swallowed by an earthquake, then belched out again into the sea and picked up and restored to life again, and to live for many years. Indeed, yes, it is so. His tombstone may be seen even at this day at Green Bay, Kingston. His name was Lewis Galdy, and he is held in high repute in this land.
I feel sometimes as Beelzebub may feel, and I long to do what Beelzebub might do as part of his mission. Sometimes a madness of revolt comes over me, and I long to ravage all the places I see, all the people I know—or nearly all. Why I do not have negroes thrashed and mutilated, as some do, I know not. Over against the southern shore in the parish of St. Elizabeth is an estate called Salem, owned, it is said, by an American, where the manager does such things. I am told that savageries are found there. There are too many absentee owners of land in this island, and the wrongs done by agents who have no personal honour at stake are all too plentiful. If I could, I would have no slavery, would set all the blacks free, making full compensation to the owners, and less to the absentee owners.
I look out on a world of summer beauty and of heat. I see the sheep in hundreds on the far hills of pasturage—sheep with short hair, small and sweet as any that ever came from the South Downs. I see the natives in their Madras handkerchiefs. I see upon the road some planter in his ketureen—a sort of sedan chair; I see a negro funeral, with its strange ceremony and its gumbies of African drums. I see yam-fed planters, on their horses, making for the burning, sandy streets of the capital. I see the Scots grass growing five and six feet high, food unsurpassed for horses—all the foliage too —beautiful tropical trees and shrubs, and here and there a huge breeding-farm. Yet I know that out beyond my sight there is the region known as Trelawney, and Trelawney Town, the headquarters of the Maroons, the free negroes—they who fled after the Spanish had been conquered and the British came, and who were later freed and secured by the Trelawney Treaty. I know that now they are ready to rise, that they are working among the slaves; and if they rise the danger is great to the white population of the island, who are outnumbered ten to one.
The governor has been warned, but he gives no heed, or treats it all lightly, pointing out how few the Maroons are. He forgets that a few determined men can demoralize a whole state, can fight and murder and fly to dark coverts in the tropical woods, where they cannot be tracked down and destroyed; and, if they have made supporters of the slaves, what consequences may not follow!
What do the Maroons look like? They are ferocious and isolated, they are proud and overbearing, they are horribly cruel, but they are potent, and are difficult to reach. They are not small and meagre, but are big, brawny fellows, clothed in wide duck trousers and shirts, and they are well-armed—cutlass, powder-horn, haversack, sling, shot-gun, and pouch for ball. They dress as the country requires, and they are strong fighters against our soldiers who are burdened with heavy muskets, and who defy the climate, with their stuffed coats, their weighty caps, and their tight cross- belts. The Maroons are not to be despised. They have brains, the insolence of freedom among natives who are not free, and vast cruelty. They can be mastered and kept in subjection, can be made allies, if properly handled; but Lord Mallow goes the wrong way about it all. He permits things that inflame the Maroons.
One thing is clear to me—only by hounds can these people be defeated. So sure am I upon this point, that I have sent to Cuba for sixty hounds, with which, when the trouble comes—and it is not far off—we shall be able to hunt the Maroons with the only weapon they really fear—the dog's sharp tooth. It may be the governor may intervene on the arrival of the dogs; but I have made friends with the provost-marshal-general and some members of the Jamaica legislature; also I have a friend in the deputy of the provost- marshal-general in my parish of Clarendon here, and I will make a good bet that the dogs will be let come into the island, governor or no governor.
When one sets oneself against the Crown one must be sure of one's ground, and fear no foe, however great and high. Well, I have won so far, and I shall win in the end. Mallow should have some respect for one that beat him at Phoenix Park with the sword; that beat him when he would have me imprisoned here; that beat him in the matter of the ship for Haiti, and that will beat him on every hazard he sets, unless he stoops to underhand acts, which he will not do. That much must be said for him. He plays his part in no small way, and he is more a bigot and a fanatic loyalist than a rogue. Suppose—but no, I will not suppose. I will lay my plans, I will keep faith with people here who trust me, and who know that if I am stern I am also just, and I will play according to the rules made by better men than myself.
But what is this I see? Michael Clones—in his white jean waistcoat, white neckcloth and trousers, and blue coat—is coming up the drive in hot haste, bearing a letter. He rides too hard. He has never carried himself easily in this climate. He treats it as if it was Ireland. He will not protect himself, and, if penalty followed folly, should now be in his grave. I like you, Michael. You are a boon, but—
Dyck Calhoun's letter was never ended. It was only a relic of the years spent in Jamaica, only a sign of his well-being, though it gave no real picture of himself. He did not know how like a tyrant he had become in some small ways, while in the large things he remained generous, urbane, and resourceful. He was in appearance thin, dark-favoured, buoyant in manner, and stern of face, with splendid eyes. Had he dwelt on Olympus, he might have been summoned to judge and chastise the sons of men.
When Michael Clones came to the doorway, Dyck laid down his quill-pen and eyed the flushed servant in disapproval.
"What is it, Michael? Wherefore this starkness? Is some one come from heaven?"
"Not precisely from heaven, y'r honour, but—"
"But—yes, Michael! Have done with but-ing, and come to the real matter."
"Well, sir, they've come from Virginia."
Dyck Calhoun slowly got to his feet, his face paling, his body stiffening. From Virginia! Who should be come from Virginia, save she to whom he had just been writing?
"Who has come from Virginia?" He knew, but he wanted it said.
"Sure, you knew a vessel came from America last night. Well, in her was one that was called the Queen of Ireland long ago."
"Queen of Ireland—well, what then?" Dyck's voice was tuneless, his manner rigid, his eyes burning. "Well, she—Miss Sheila Llyn and her mother are going to the Salem Plantation, down by the Essex Valley Mountain. It is her plantation now. It belonged to her uncle, Bryan Llyn. He got it in payment of a debt. He's dead now, and all his lands and wealth have come to her. Her mother, Mrs. Llyn, is with her, and they start to-morrow or the next day for Salem. There'll be different doings at Salem henceforward, y'r honour. She's not the woman to see slaves treated as the manager at Salem treated 'em."
Dyck Calhoun made an impatient gesture at this last remark.
"Yes, yes, Michael. Where are they now?"
"They're at Charlotte Bedford's lodgings in Spanish Town. The governor waited on them this morning. The governor sent them flowers and—"
"Flowers—Lord Mallow sent them flowers! Hell's fiend, man, suppose he did?"
"There are better flowers here than in any Spanish Town."
"Well, take them, Michael; but if you do, come here again no more while you live, for I'll have none of you. Do you think I'm entering the lists against the king's governor?"
"You've done it before, sir, and there's no harm in doing it again. One good turn deserves another. I've also to tell you, sir, that Lord Mallow has asked them to stay at King's House."
"Lord Mallow has asked Americans to stay at King's House!"
"But they're Irish, and he knew them in Ireland, y 'r honour."
"Well, he knew me in Ireland, and I'm proscribed!"
"Ah, that's different, as you know. There's no war on now, and they're only good American citizens who own land in this dominion of the king; so why shouldn't he give them courtesy?"
"From whom do you get your information?" asked Dyck Calhoun with an air of suspicion.
"From Darius Boland, y'r honour," answered Michael, with a smile. "Who is Darius Boland, you're askin' in y'r mind? Well, he's the new manager come from the Llyn plantations in Virginia; and right good stuff he is, with a tongue that's as dry as cut-wheat in August. And there's humour in him, plenty-aye, plenty. When did I see him, and how? Well, I saw him this mornin', on the quay at Kingston. He was orderin' the porters about with an air—oh, bedad, an air! I saw the name upon the parcels— Miss Sheila Llyn, of Moira, Virginia, and so I spoke to him. The rest was aisy. He looked me up and down in a flash, like a searchlight playin' on an enemy ship, and then he smiled. 'Well,' said he, 'who might you be? For there's queer folks in Jamaica, I'm told.' So I said I was Michael Clones, and at that he doffed his hat and held out a hand. 'Well, here's luck,' said he. 'Luck at the very start! I've heard of you from my mistress. You're servant to Mr. Dyck Calhoun—ain't that it?' And I nodded, and he smiled again—a smile that'd cost money annywhere else than in Jamaica. He smiled again, and give a slow hitch to his breeches as though they was fallin' down. Why, sir, he's the longest bit of man you ever saw, with a pointed beard, and a nose that's as long as a midshipman's tongue-dry, lean, and elastic. He's quick and slow all at once. His small eyes twinkle like stars beatin' up against bad weather, and his skin's the colour of Scots grass in the dead of summer-yaller, he'd call it if he called it anything, and yaller was what he called the look of the sky above the hills. Queer way of talk he has, that man, as queer as—"
"I understand, Michael. But what else? How did you come to talk about the affairs of Mrs. and Miss Llyn? He didn't just spit it out, did he?"
"Sure, not so quick and free as spittin', y'r honour; but when he'd sorted me out, as it were, he said Miss Llyn had come out here to take charge of Salem; her own estate in Virginia bein' in such good runnin' order, and her mind bein' active. Word had come of the trouble with the manager here, and one of the provost-marshal's deputies had written accounts of the flogging and ill-treatment of slaves, and that's why she come—to put things right at Salem!"
"To put things wrong in Jamaica, Michael, that's why she's come. To loose the ball of confusion and free the flood of tragedy—that's why she's come! Man, Michael, you know her history—who she was and what happened to her father. Well, do you think there's no tragedy in her coming here? I killed her father, they say, Michael. I was punished for it. I came here to be free of all those things—lifted out and away from them all. I longed to forget the past, which is only shame and torture; and here it is all spread out at my door again like a mat, which I must see as I go in and out. Essex Valley—why, it's less than a day's ride from here, far less than a day's ride! It can be ridden in four or five hours at a trot. Michael, it's all a damnable business. And here she is in Jamaica with her Darius Boland! There was no talk on Boland's part of their coming here, was there Michael?"
"None at all, sir, but there was that in the man's eye, and that in his tone, which made me sure he thought Miss Llyn and you would meet."