"Our little ones," said Ongoloo, after a few minutes' pause, "are amusing themselves with singing. They often do that."
As he spoke the party were startled and surprised by the sudden appearance of Ebony, who quietly stalked into the circle and seated himself beside the missionary with the guilty yet defiant air of a man who knows that he has done wrong, but is resolved at all hazards to have his way. Considering the turn that affairs had taken, neither Orlando nor Waroonga were sorry to see him.
"This is a friend," said the latter in explanation, laying his hand on the negro's shoulder. "But tell me, chief, we are impatient for to know, where learned you that song?"
"From one who is mad," replied the chief still gazing earnestly at Orlando.
"Mad!" repeated the youth, starting up and trembling with excitement—"how know you that? Who—where is he? Ask him, Waroonga."
The explanation that followed left no doubt on Orlando's mind that his father was bereft of reason, and wandering in the neighbouring mountain.
If there had been any doubt, it would have been swept away by the chief, who quietly said, "the madman is your father!"
"How does he know that Waroonga?"
"I know, because there is no difference between you, except years— and—"
He did not finish the sentence, but touched his forehead solemnly with his finger.
"Does he dwell alone in the mountains?" asked Orlando.
"Yes, alone. He lets no one approach him," answered Ongoloo.
"Now, Waroonga," said Orlando, "our prayers have been heard, and—at least partly—answered. But we must proceed with caution. You must return on board and tell Captain Fitzgerald that I go to search for my father alone."
"Wid the help ob dis yar nigger," interposed Ebony.
"Tell him on no account to send men in search of me," continued Orlando, paying no attention to the interruption; "and in the meantime, you know how to explain my purpose to the natives. Adieu."
Rising quickly, he left the assembly and, followed modestly but closely by the unconquerable negro, set off with rapid strides towards the mountains.
When Zeppa, as related in a previous chapter, staggered up the mountain side with Richard Rosco in his arms, his great strength was all but exhausted, and it was with the utmost difficulty that he succeeded at last, before night-fall, in laying his burden on the couch in his cave.
Then, for the first time, he seemed to have difficulty in deciding what to do. Now, at last, the pirate was in his power—he could do to him what he pleased! As he thought thus he turned a look of fierce indignation upon him. But, even as he gazed, the look faded, and was replaced by one of pity, for he could not help seeing that the wretched man was suffering intolerable anguish, though no murmur escaped from his tightly-compressed lips.
"Slay me, in God's name, kill me at once, Zeppa," he gasped, "and put me out of torment."
"Poor man! poor Rosco!" returned the madman in a gentle voice, "I thought to have punished thee, but God wills it otherwise."
He said no more, but rose hastily and went into the bush. Returning in a few moments with a bundle of herbs, he gathered some sticks and kindled a fire. A large earthenware pot stood close to the side of the cave's entrance—a clumsy thing, made by himself of some sort of clay. This he filled with water, put the herbs in, and set it on the fire. Soon he had a poultice spread on a broad leaf which, when it was cold, he applied to one of the pirate's dreadfully burnt feet. Then he spread another poultice, with which he treated the other foot.
What the remedy was that Zeppa made use of on this occasion is best known to himself; we can throw no light on the subject. Neither can we say whether the application was or was not in accordance with the practice of the faculty, but certain it is that Rosco's sufferings were immediately assuaged, and he soon fell into a tranquil sleep.
Not so the madman, who sat watching by his couch. Poor Zeppa's physical sufferings and exertion had proved too much for him; the strain on his shattered nerves had been too severe, and a burning fever was now raging within him, so that the delirium consequent on disease began to mingle, so to speak, with his insanity.
He felt that something unusual was going on within him. He tried to restrain himself, and chain down his wandering, surging thoughts, but the more he sought to hold himself down, the more did a demon—who seemed to have been especially appointed for the purpose—cast his mental fastenings adrift.
At last he took it into his head that the slumbering pirate had bewitched him. As this idea gained ground and the internal fires increased, the old ideas of revenge returned, and he drew the knife which hung at his belt, gazing furtively at the sleeper as he did so.
But the better nature within the man maintained a fierce conflict with the worse.
"He murdered my son—my darling Orley!" murmured the madman, as he felt the keen edge and point of his knife, and crept towards the sleeper, while a fitful flicker of the dying fire betrayed the awful light that seemed to blaze in his eyes. "He carried me from my home! He left Marie to die in hopeless grief! Ha! ha! ha! Oh God! keep me back—back from this."
The noise awoke Rosco, who sat up and gazed at Zeppa in horror, for he saw at a glance that a fit of his madness must have seized him.
"Zeppa!" he exclaimed, raising himself with difficulty on both hands, and gazing sternly in the madman's face.
"Ha!" exclaimed the latter, suddenly throwing his knife on the ground within Rosco's reach, "see, I scorn to take advantage of your unarmed condition. Take that and defend yourself. I will content myself with this."
He caught up the heavy staff which he was in the habit of carrying with him in his mountain rambles. At the same instant Rosco seized the knife and flung it far into the bush.
"See! I am still unarmed," he said.
"True, but you are not the less guilty, Rosco, and you must die. It is my duty to kill you."
He advanced with the staff up-raised.
"Stay! Let us consider before you strike. Are you not a self-appointed executioner?"
The question was well put. The madman lowered the staff to consider. Instantly the pirate made a plunge at and caught it. Zeppa strove to wrench it from his grasp, but the pirate felt that his life might depend on his retaining hold, and, in his extremity, was endued with almost supernatural strength. In the fierce struggles that ensued, the embers of the fire were scattered, and the spot reduced to almost total darkness. During the unequal conflict, the pirate, who could only get upon his knees, was swept and hurled from side to side, but still he grasped the staff with vice-like power to his breast. Even in that fearful moment the idea, which had already occurred to him, of humouring his antagonist gained force. He suddenly loosed his hold. Zeppa staggered backward, recovered himself, sprang forward, and aimed a fearful blow at his adversary, who suddenly fell flat down. The staff passed harmlessly over him and was shattered to pieces on the side of the cave.
"Ha! ha!" laughed the pirate lightly, as he sat up again, "you see, Zeppa, that Providence is against you. How else could I, a helpless cripple, have held my own against you? And see, the very weapon you meant to use is broken to pieces. Come now, delay this execution for a little, and let us talk together about this death which you think is due. There is much to be said about death, you know, and I should like to get to understand it better before I experience it."
"There is reason in that, Rosco," said Zeppa, sitting down on the ground by the side of the pirate, and leaning his back against the rock. "You have much need to consider death, for after death comes the judgment, and none of us can escape that."
"True, Zeppa, and I should not like to face that just now, for I am not fit to die, although, as you truly say, I deserve death. I have no hesitation in admitting that," returned the pirate, with some bitterness; "I deserve to die, body and soul, and, after all, I don't see why I should seek so earnestly to delay the righteous doom."
"Right, Rosco, right; you talk sense now, the doom is well deserved. Why, then, try to prevent me any longer from inflicting it when you know it is my duty to do so?"
"Because," continued the pirate, who felt that to maintain the conflict even with words was too much for his exhausted strength, "because I have heard that God is merciful."
"Merciful!" echoed Zeppa. "Of course He is. Have you not heard that His mercy is so great that He has provided a way of escape for sinners— through faith in His own dear Son?"
"It does not, however, seem to be a way of escape for me," said the pirate, letting himself sink back on his couch with a weary sigh.
"Yes, it is! yes, it is!" exclaimed Zeppa eagerly, as he got upon the familiar theme; "the offer is to the chief of sinners, 'Whosoever will,' 'Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?'"
"Tell me about it" said Rosco faintly, as the other paused.
Zeppa had delayed a moment in order to think for his disordered mind had been turned into a much-loved channel, that of preaching the Gospel to inquiring sinners. For many years he had been training himself in the knowledge of the Scriptures, and, being possessed of a good memory, he had got large portions of it by heart. Gathering together the embers of the scattered fire, he sat down again, and, gazing thoughtfully at the flickering flames, began to point out the way of salvation to the pirate.
Sleep—irresistible sleep—gradually overcame the latter; still the former went on repeating long passages of God's word. At last he put a question, and, not receiving an answer, looked earnestly into the face of his enemy.
"Ah! poor man. He sleeps. God cannot wish me to slay him until I have made him understand the gospel. I will delay—till to-morrow."
Before the morrow came Zeppa had wandered forth among the cliffs and gorges of his wild home, with the ever-increasing fires of fever raging in his veins.
Sometimes his madness took the form of wildest fury, and, grasping some bush or sapling that might chance to be near, he would struggle with it as with a fiend until utter exhaustion caused him to fall prostrate on the ground, where he would lie until partial rest and internal fire gave him strength again to rise. At other times he would run up and down the bills like a greyhound, bounding from rock to rock, and across chasms where one false step would have sent him headlong to destruction.
Frequently he ran down to the beach and plunged into the sea, where he would swim about aimlessly until exhaustion sent him to the shore, where he would fall down, as at other times, and rest—if such repose could be so styled.
Thus he continued fighting for his life for several days.
During that time Richard Rosco lay in the cave almost starving.
At first he had found several cocoa-nuts, the hard shells of which had been broken by Zeppa, and appeased his hunger with these, but when they were consumed, he sought about the cave for food in vain. Fortunately he found a large earthenware pot—evidently a home-made one—nearly full of water, so that he was spared the agony of thirst as well as hunger.
When he had scraped the shells of the cocoa-nuts perfectly clean, the pirate tried to crawl forth on hands and knees, to search for food, his feet being in such a state that it was not possible for him to stand, much less to walk. But Zeppa had long ago cleared away all the wild fruits that grew in the neighbourhood of his cave, so that he found nothing save a few wild berries. Still, in his condition, even these were of the utmost value: they helped to keep him alive. Another night passed, and the day came. He crept forth once more, but was so weakened by suffering and want that he could not extend his explorations so far as before, and was compelled to return without having tasted a mouthful. Taking a long draught of water, he lay down, as he firmly believed, to die.
And as he lay there his life rose up before him as an avenging angel, and the image of his dead mother returned with a reproachful yet an appealing look in her eyes. He tried to banish the one and to turn his thoughts from the other, but failed, and at last in an agony of remorse, shouted the single word "Guilty!"
It seemed as if the cry had called Zeppa from the world of spirits—to which Rosco believed he had fled—for a few minutes afterwards the madman approached his mountain-home, with the blood still boiling in his veins. Apparently he had forgotten all about the pirate, for he was startled on beholding him.
"What! still there? I thought I had killed you."
"I wish you had, Zeppa. It would have been more merciful than leaving me to die of hunger here."
"Are you prepared to die now?"
"Yes, but for God's sake give me something to eat first. After that I care not what you do to me."
"Miserable man, death is sufficient for you. I have neither command nor desire to torture. You shall have food immediately."
So saying, Zeppa re-entered the bush. In less than half-an-hour he returned with several cocoa-nuts and other fruits, of which Rosco partook with an avidity that told its own tale.
"Now," said Zeppa, rising, when Rosco had finished, "have you had enough?"
"No," said the pirate, quickly, "not half enough. Go, like a good fellow, and fetch me more."
Zeppa rose at once and went away. While he was gone the fear of being murdered again took possession of Rosco. He felt that his last hour was approaching, and, in order to avoid his doom if possible, crawled away among the bushes and tried to hide himself. He was terribly weak, however, and had not got fifty yards away when he fell down utterly exhausted.
He heard Zeppa return to the cave, and listened with beating heart.
"Hallo! where are you?" cried the madman.
Then, receiving no answer, he burst into a long, loud fit of laughter, which seemed to freeze the very marrow in the pirate's bones.
"Ha! ha!" he shouted, again and again, "I knew you were a dream, I felt sure of it—ha! ha! and now this proves it. And I'm glad you were a dream, for I did not want to kill you, Rosco, though I thought it my duty to do so. It was a dream—thank God, it was all a dream!"
Zeppa did not end again with wild laughter, but betook himself to earnest importunate prayer, during which Rosco crept, by slow degrees, farther and farther away, until he could no longer hear the sound of his enemy's voice.
Now, it was while this latter scene had been enacting, that Orlando and the faithful negro set out on their search into the mountain.
At first they did not speak, and Ebony, not feeling sure how his young master relished his company, kept discreetly a pace or two in rear. After they had crossed the plain, however, and begun to scale the steep sides of the hills, his tendency towards conversation could not be restrained.
"Does you t'ink, Massa Orley, that hims be you fadder?"
"I think so, Ebony, indeed I feel almost sure of it."
Thus encouraged, the negro ranged up alongside.
"An' does you t'ink hims mad?"
"I hope not. I pray not; but I fear that he—"
"Hims got leettle out ob sorts," said the sympathetic Ebony, suggesting a milder state of things.
As Orlando did not appear to derive much consolation from the suggestion, Ebony held his tongue for a few minutes.
Presently his attention was attracted to a sound in the underwood near them.
"Hist! Massa Orley. I hear somet'ing."
"So do I, Ebony," said the youth, pausing for a moment to listen; "it must be some sort of bird, for there can be no wild animals left by the natives in so small an island."
As he spoke something like a low moan was heard. The negro's mouth opened, and the whites of his great eyes seemed to dilate.
"If it am a bird, massa, hims got a mos' awful voice. Mus' have cotched a drefful cold!"
The groan was repeated as he spoke, and immediately after they observed a large, sluggish-looking animal, advancing through the underwood.
"What a pity we's not got a gun!" whispered Ebony. "If we's only had a spear or a pitchfork, it's besser than nuffin."
"Lucky that you have nothing of the sort, else you'd commit murder," said Orlando, advancing. "Don't you see—it is a man!"
The supposed animal started as the youth spoke, and rose on his knees with a terribly haggard and anxious look.
"Richard Rosco!" exclaimed Orley, who recognised the pirate at the first glance.
But Rosco did not reply. He, too, had recognised Orley, despite the change in his size and appearance, and believed him to be a visitant from the other world, an idea which was fostered by the further supposition that Ebony was the devil keeping him company.
Orlando soon relieved him, however. The aspect of the pirate, so haggard and worn out, as he crawled on his hands and knees, was so dreadful that a flood of pity rushed into his bosom.
"My poor fellow," he said, going forward and laying his hand gently on his shoulder, "this is indeed a most unexpected, most amazing sight. How came you here?"
"Then you were not drowned?" gasped the pirate, instead of answering the question.
"No, thank God. I was not drowned," said Orley, with a sad smile. "But again I ask, How came you here?"
"Never mind me," said Rosco hurriedly, "but go to your father."
"My father! Do you know, then, where he is?" cried Orlando, with sudden excitement.
"Yes. He is up there—not far off. I have just escaped from him. He is bent on taking my life. He saved me from the savages. He is mad— with fever—and stands terribly in need of help."
Bewildered beyond expression by these contradictory statements, Orlando made no attempt to understand, but exclaimed—
"Can you guide us to him?"
"You see," returned the pirate sadly, "I cannot even rise to my feet. The savages were burning me alive when your father came to my rescue. The flesh is dropping from the bones. I cannot help you."
"Kin you git on my back?" asked Ebony. "You's a good lift, but I's awful strong."
"I will try," returned Rosco, "but you will have to protect me from Zeppa if he sees me, for he is bent on taking my life. He thinks that you were drowned—as, indeed, so did I—the time that you were thrown overboard without my knowledge—mind that, without my knowledge—and your father in his madness thinks he is commissioned by God to avenge your death. Perhaps, when he sees you alive, he may change his mind, but there is no depending on one who is delirious with fever. He will probably still be in the cave when we reach it."
"We will protect you. Get up quickly, and show us the way to the cave."
In a moment the stout negro had the pirate on his broad shoulders, and, under his guidance, mounted the slightly-marked path that led to Zeppa's retreat.
No words were spoken by the way. Orlando was too full of anxious anticipation to speak. The negro was too heavily weighted to care about conversation just then, and Rosco suffered so severely from the rough motions of his black steed that he was fain to purse his lips tightly to prevent a cry of pain.
On reaching the neighbourhood of the cave the pirate whispered to Ebony to set him down.
"You will come in sight of the place the moment you turn round yonder cliff. It is better that I should remain here till the meeting is over. I hear no sound, but doubtless Zeppa is lying down by this time."
The negro set his burden on the ground, and Rosco crept slowly into the bush to hide, while the others hurried forward in the direction pointed out to them.
No sooner had Orlando and the negro passed round the cliff to which Rosco had directed them, than they beheld a sight which was well calculated to fill them with anxiety and alarm, for there stood Zeppa, panting and wrestling with one of the fiends that were in the habit of assailing him.
The fiend, on this occasion, was familiar enough to him—the stout branch of a tree which overhung his cave, but which his delirious brain had transformed into a living foe. No shout or cry issued from the poor man's compressed lips. He engaged in the deadly struggle with that silent resolve of purpose which was natural to him. The disease under which he laboured had probably reached its climax, for he swayed to and fro, in his futile efforts to wrench off the limb, with a degree of energy that seemed more than human. His partially naked limbs showed the knotted muscles standing out rigidly; his teeth were clenched and exposed; his blood-shot eyes glared; the long, curling and matted hair of his head and beard was flying about in wild disorder; and his labouring chest heaved as he fiercely, silently, and hopelessly struggled.
Oh! it was a terrible picture to be presented thus suddenly to the gaze of a loving son.
"Stay where you are, Ebony. I must meet him alone," whispered Orlando.
Then, hastening forward with outstretched arms, he exclaimed—
Instantly Zeppa let go his supposed enemy and turned round. The change in his aspect was as wonderful as it was sudden. The old, loving, gentle expression overspread his features, and the wild fire seemed to die out of his eyes as he held out both hands.
"Ah! once more, my son!" he said, in the tenderest of tones. "Come to me. This is kind of you, Orley, to return so soon again; I had not expected you for a long time. Sit down beside me, and lay your head upon my knee—so—I like to have you that way, for I see you better."
"Oh, father—dear father!" said Orlando, but the words were choked in his throat, and tears welled from his eyes.
"Yes, Orley?" said Zeppa, with a startled look of joyful surprise, while he turned his head a little to one side, as if listening in expectancy; "speak again, dear boy; speak again. I have often seen you since you went to the spirit-land, but have never heard you speak till to-day. Speak once more, dear boy!"
But Orley could not speak. He could only hide his face in his father's bosom and sob aloud.
"Nay, don't cry, lad; you never did that before! What do you mean? That is unmanly. Not like what my courageous boy was wont to be. And you have grown so much since last I saw you. Why, you've even got a beard! Who ever heard of a bearded man sobbing like a child? And now I look at you closely I see that you have grown wonderfully tall. It is very strange—but all things seem strange since I came here. Only, in all the many visits you have paid me, I have never seen you changed till to-day. You have always come to me in the old boyish form. Very, very strange! But, Orley, my boy" (and here Zeppa's voice became intensely earnest and pleading), "you won't leave me again, will you? Surely they can well spare you from the spirit-world for a time—just a little while. It would fill my heart with such joy and gratitude. And I'm your father, Orley, surely I have a right to you—more right than the angels have—haven't I? and then it would give such joy, if you came back, to your dear mother, whom I have not seen for so long—so very long!"
"I will never leave you, father, never!" cried Orlando, throwing his arms round Zeppa's neck and embracing him passionately.
"Nay, then, you are going to leave me," cried Zeppa, with sudden alarm, as he clasped Orlando to him with an iron grip. "You always embrace me when you are about to vanish out of my sight. But you shall not escape me this time. I have got you tighter than I ever had you before, and no fiend shall separate us now. No fiend!" he repeated in a shout, glaring at a spot in the bushes where Ebony, unable to restrain his feelings, had unwittingly come into sight.
Suddenly changing his purpose, Zeppa let go his son and sprang like a tiger on the supposed fiend. Ebony went down before him like a bulrush before the hurricane, but, unlike it, he did not rise again. The madman had pinned him to the earth and was compressing his throat with both hands. It required all the united strength of his son and the negro to loosen his grasp, and even that would not have sufficed had not the terrible flame which had burned so long died out. It seemed to have been suddenly extinguished by this last burst of fury, for Zeppa fell back as helpless as an infant in their hands. Indeed he lay so still with his eyes closed that Orlando trembled with fear lest he should be dying.
"Now, Ebony," said he, taking the negro apart, when they had made the exhausted man as comfortable as possible on his rude couch in the cave; "you run down to the ship and fetch the doctor here without delay. I will be able to manage him easily when alone. Run as you never ran before. Don't let any soul come here except the doctor and yourself. Tell the captain I have found him—through God's mercy—but that he is very ill and must be carefully kept from excitement and that in the meantime nobody is to disturb us. The doctor will of course fetch physic; and tell him to bring his surgical instruments also, for, if I mistake not, poor Rosco needs his attention. Do you bring up as much in the way of provisions as you can carry, and one or two blankets. And, harkee, make no mention of the pirate to any one. Away!"
During the delivery of this message, the negro listened eagerly, and stood quite motionless, like a black statue, with the exception of his glittering eyes.
"Yes, massa," he said at its conclusion, and almost literally vanished from the scene.
Orlando then turned to his father. The worn out man still lay perfectly quiet, with closed eyes, and countenance so pale that the dread of approaching death again seized on the son. The breathing was, however, slow and regular, and what appeared to be a slight degree of moisture lay on the brow. The fact that the sick man slept soon became apparent, and when Orlando had assured himself of this he arose, left the cave with careful tread, and glided, rather than walked, back to the place where the pirate had been left. There he still lay, apparently much exhausted.
"We have found him, thank God," said Orlando, seating himself on a bank; "and I would fain hope that the worst is over, for he sleeps. But, poor fellow, you seem to be in a bad case. Can I do aught to relieve you?"
"Nothing," replied Rosco, with a weary sigh.
"I have sent for a surgeon—"
"A surgeon!" repeated the pirate, with a startled look; "then there must be a man-of-war off the coast for South sea traders are not used to carry surgeons."
"Ah! I forgot. You naturally don't wish to see any one connected with a man-of-war. Yes, there is one here. I came in her. But you can see this surgeon without his knowing who or what you are. It will be sufficient for him to know that you are an unfortunate sailor who had fallen into the hands of the savages."
"Yes," exclaimed Rosco, grasping eagerly at the idea; "and that's just what I am. Moreover, I ran away from my ship! But—but—do you not feel it your duty to give me up?"
"What I shall feel it my duty to do ultimately is not a matter for present consideration. Just now you require surgical assistance. But how did you come here? and what do you mean by saying that you ran away from your ship?"
Rosco in reply gave a brief but connected narrative of his career during the past three years, in which he made no attempt to exculpate himself, but, on the contrary, confessed his guilt and admitted his desert of death.
"Yet I shrink from death," he said in conclusion. "Is it not strange that I, who have faced death so often with perfect indifference, should draw back from it now with something like fear?"
"A great writer," replied Orlando, "whom my father used to read to me at home, says that 'conscience makes cowards of us all.' And a still greater authority says that 'the wicked flee when no man pursueth.' You are safe here, Rosco—at all events for the present. But you must not go near the cave again. Rest where you are and I will search for some place where you may remain concealed till you are well. I shall return quickly."
Leaving the pirate where he lay, Orlando returned to his father, and, finding that he still slept, went off to search for a cave.
He soon found a small one in the cliffs, suitable for his purpose. Thither he carried the pirate, laid him tenderly on a couch of branches and leaves, put food and water within his reach, and left him with a feeling of comfort and of contentment at heart that he had not experienced for many years.
That night the surgeon of the "Furious" ascended to the mountain cave. His approach was made known to Orlando, as he watched at the sick man's side, by the appearance of Ebony's great eyes glittering at him over the bushes that encircled the cave's mouth. No wonder that poor Zeppa had mistaken him for a demon! Holding up a finger of caution, Orlando glided towards him, seized his arm, and, after leading him to a safe distance, asked in a low voice—
"Well, have you brought the doctor?"
"Ho, yis, massa, an' I bring Tomeo and Buttchee too."
"Didn't I tell you to let no one else come near us?" said Orlando in a tone of vexation.
"Dat's true, massa, but I no kin stop dem. So soon as dey hear dat Antonio Zeppa am found, sick in de mountains, dey swore dey mus' go see him. I say dat you say no! Dey say dey not care. I say me knock 'em bofe down. Dey say dey turn me hinside hout if I don't ole my tongue. What could dis yar nigger do? Dey's too much for me. So dey follered, and here dey am wid de doctor, waiting about two hun'rd yards down dere for leave to come. But, I say, massa, dey's good sort o' fellers after all—do whatever you tells 'em. Good for go messages, p'raps, an save dis yar nigger's poor legs."
Ebony made the latter suggestion with a grin so broad that in the darkness his face became almost luminous with teeth and gums.
"Well, I suppose we must make the most of the circumstances," said Orlando. "Come, lead me to them."
It was found that though the strong affection of the two chiefs for Zeppa had made them rebellious in the matter of visiting the spot, the same affection, and their regard for Orlando, rendered them submissive as lambs, and willing to do absolutely whatever they were told.
Orlando, therefore, had no difficulty in prevailing on them to delay their visit to his father till the following day. Meanwhile, he caused them to encamp in a narrow pass close at hand, and, the better to reconcile them to their lot, imposed upon them the duty of mounting guard each alternate couple of hours during the night.
"He will do well," said the doctor, after examining the patient. "This sleep is life to him. I will give him something when he awakes, but the awaking must be left to nature. Whether he recovers his reason after what he has passed through remains to be seen. You say he has been wandering for some time here in a state of insanity? How came that about?"
"It is a long and sad story, doctor," said Orlando, evading the question, "and I have not time to tell it now, for I want you to visit another patient."
"Another patient?" repeated the surgeon, in surprise; "ah! one of the natives, I suppose?"
"No, a white man. He is a sailor who ran away from his ship, and was caught by the natives and tortured."
"Come, then, let us go and see the poor fellow at once. Does he live far from here?"
"Close at hand," answered Orlando, as he led the way; "and perhaps, doctor, it would be well not to question the poor man at present as to his being here and in such a plight. He seems very weak and ill."
When the surgeon had examined Rosco's feet he led Orlando aside.
"It is a bad case," he said; "both legs must be amputated below the knee if the man's life is to be saved."
"Must it be done now?"
"Immediately. Can you assist me?"
"I have assisted at amateur operations before now," said Orlando, "and at all events you can count on the firmness of my nerves and on blind obedience. But stay—I must speak to him first, alone."
"Rosco," said the youth, as he knelt by the pirate's couch, "your sins have been severely punished, and your endurance sorely tried—"
"Not more than I deserve, Orlando."
"But I grieve to tell you that your courage must be still further tried. The doctor says that both feet must be amputated."
A frown gathered on the pirate's face, and he compressed his lips for a few moments.
"And the alternative?" he asked.
Again there was a brief pause. Then he said slowly, almost bitterly—
"Oh, death! you have hovered over my head pretty steadily of late! It is a question whether I had not better let you come on and end these weary struggles, rather than become a hopeless cripple in the prime of life! Why should I fear death now more than before?"
"Have you any hope of eternal life, Rosco?"
"How can I tell? What do I know about eternal life!"
"Then you are not prepared to die; and let me earnestly assure you that there is something well worth living for, though at present you do not—you cannot know it."
"Enough. Let it be as the doctor advises," said the pirate in a tone of resignation.
That night the operation was successfully performed, and the unfortunate man was afterwards carefully tended by Ebony.
Next day Tomeo and Buttchee were told that their old friend Zeppa could not yet be seen, but that he required many little comforts from the "Furious," which must be brought up with as little delay as possible. That was sufficient. Forgetting themselves in their anxiety to aid their friend, these affectionate warriors went off on their mission, and were soon out of sight.
When Zeppa awoke at last with a deep sigh, it was still dark. This was fortunate, for he could not see whose hand administered the physic, and was too listless and weak to inquire. It was bright day when he awoke the second time and looked up inquiringly in his son's face.
"What, are you still there, Orley?" he said faintly, while the habitual sweet expression stole over his pale features, though it was quickly followed by the perplexed look. "But how comes this change? You look so much older than you are, dear boy. Would God that I could cease this dreaming!"
"You are not dreaming now, father. I am indeed Orley. You have been ill and delirious, but, thanks be to God, are getting well again."
"What?" exclaimed the invalid; "has it been all a dream, then? Were you not thrown into the sea by mutineers, and have I not been wandering for months or years on a desert island? But then, if these things be all dreams," he added, opening his eyes wide and fixing them intently on Orlando's face, "how comes it that I still dream the change in you? You are Orley, yet not Orley! How is that?"
"Yes, all that is true, dear, dear father," said the youth, gently clasping one of the helpless hands that lay crossed on Zeppa's broad chest; "I was thrown overboard by the mutineers years ago, but, thank God, I was not drowned; and you have been wandering here in—in—very ill, for years; but, thank God again, you are better, and I have been mercifully sent to deliver you."
"I can't believe it, Orley, for I have so often seen you, and you have so often given me the slip—yet there does seem something very real about you just now—very real, though so changed—yet it is the same voice, and you never spoke to me before in my dreams—except once. Yes, I think it was once, that you spoke. I remember it well, for the sound sent such a thrill to my heart. Oh! God forbid that it should again fade away as it has done so often!"
"It will not fade, father. The time you speak of was only yesterday, when I found you. You have been sleeping since, and a doctor is attending you."
"A doctor! where did he come from?"
At that moment Ebony approached with some food in a tin pan. The invalid observed him at once.
"Ebony! can that be you? Why—when—oh! my poor brain feels so light— it seems as if a puff of wind would blow it away. I must have been very ill." Zeppa spoke feebly, and closed his eyes, from which one or two tears issued—blessed tears!—the first he had shed for many a day.
"His reason is restored," whispered the doctor in Orlando's ear, "but he must be left to rest."
Orlando's heart was too full to find relief through the lips.
"I cannot understand it at all," resumed Zeppa, reopening his eyes; "least of all can I understand you, Orley, but my hope is in God. I would sleep now, but you must not let go my hand." (Orlando held it tighter.) "One word more. Your dear mother?"
"Is well—and longs to see you."
A profound, long-drawn sigh followed, as if an insupportable burden had been removed from the wearied soul, and Zeppa sank into a sleep so peaceful that it seemed as if the spirit had forsaken the worn out frame. But a steady, gentle heaving of the chest told that life was still there. During the hours that followed, Orlando sat quite motionless, like a statue, firmly grasping his father's hand.
A few days after the discovery of Zeppa by his son, a trading vessel chanced to touch at the island, the captain of which no sooner saw the British man-of-war than he lowered his gig, went aboard in a state of great excitement, and told how that, just two days before, he had been chased by a pirate in latitude so-and-so and longitude something else!
A messenger was immediately sent in hot haste to Sugar-loaf Mountain to summon Orlando.
"I'm sorry to be obliged to leave you in such a hurry," said Captain Fitzgerald, as they were about to part, "but duty calls, and I must obey. I promise you, however, either to return here or to send your mission-vessel for you, if it be available. Rest assured that you shall not be altogether forsaken."
Having uttered these words of consolation, the captain spread his sails and departed, leaving Orlando, and his father, Waroonga, Tomeo, Buttchee, Ebony, and Rosco on Sugar-loaf Island.
Several days after this, Waroonga entered the hut of Ongoloo and sat down. The chief was amusing himself at the time by watching his prime minister Wapoota playing with little Lippy, who had become a favourite at the palace since Zeppa had begun to take notice of her.
"I would palaver with the chief," said the missionary.
"Let Lippy be gone," said the chief.
Wapoota rolled the brown child unceremoniously out of the hut, and composed his humorous features into an expression of solemnity.
"My brother," continued the missionary, "has agreed to become a Christian and burn his idols?"
"Yes," replied Ongoloo with an emphatic nod, for he was a man of decision. "I like to hear what you tell me. I feel that I am full of naughtiness. I felt that before you came here. I have done things that I knew to be wrong, because I have been miserable after doing them—yet, when in passion, I have done them again. I have wondered why I was miserable. Now I know; you tell me the Great Father was whispering to my spirit. It must be true. I have resisted Him, and He made me miserable. I deserve it. I deserve to die. When any of my men dare to resist me I kill them. I have dared to resist the Great Father, yet He has not killed me. Why not? you tell me He is full of love and mercy even to His rebels! I believe it. You say, He sent His Son Jesus to die for me, and to deliver me from my sins. It is well, I accept this Saviour—and all my people shall accept Him."
"My brother's voice makes me glad," returned Waroonga; "but while you can accept this Saviour for yourself, it is not possible to force other people to do so."
"Not possible!" cried the despotic chief, with vehemence. "Do you not know that I can force my people to do whatever I please?—at least I can kill them if they refuse."
"You cannot do that and, at the same time, be a Christian."
"But," resumed Ongoloo, with a look of, so to speak, fierce perplexity, "I can at all events make them burn their idols."
"True, but that would only make them hate you in their hearts, and perhaps worship their idols more earnestly in secret. No, my brother; there is but one weapon given to Christians, but that is a sharp and powerful weapon. It is called Love; we must win others to Christ by voice and example, we may not drive them. It is not permitted. It is not possible."
The chief cast his frowning eyes on the ground, and so remained for some time, while the missionary silently prayed. It was a critical moment. The man so long accustomed to despotic power could not easily bring his mind to understand the process of winning men. He did, indeed, know how to win the love of his wives and children—for he was naturally of an affectionate disposition, but as to winning the obedience of warriors or slaves—the thing was preposterous! Yet he had sagacity enough to perceive that while he could compel the obedience of the body—or kill it—he could not compel the obedience of the soul.
"How can I," he said at last, with a touch of indignation still in his tone, "I, a chief and a descendant of chiefs, stoop to ask, to beg, my slaves to become Christians? It may not be, I can only command them."
"Woh!" exclaimed Wapoota, unable to restrain his approval of the sentiment.
"You cannot even command yourself, Ongoloo, to be a Christian. How, then, can you command others? It is the Great Father who has put it into your heart to wish to be a Christian. If you will now take His plan, you will succeed. If you refuse, and try your own plan, you shall fail."
"Stay," cried the chief, suddenly laying such a powerful grasp on Waroonga's shoulder, that he winced; "did you not say that part of His plan is the forgiveness of enemies?"
"Must I, then, forgive the Raturans if I become a Christian?"
"Then it is impossible. What! forgive the men whose forefathers have tried to rob my forefathers of their mountain since our nation first sprang into being! Forgive the men who have for ages fought with our fathers, and tried to make slaves of our women and children—though they always failed because they are cowardly dogs! Forgive the Raturans? Never! Impossible!"
"With man this is impossible. With the Great Father all things are possible. Leave your heart in His hands, Ongoloo; don't refuse His offer to save you from an unforgiving spirit, as well as from other sins, and that which to you seems impossible will soon become easy."
"No—never!" reiterated the chief with decision, as he cut further conversation short by rising and stalking out of the hut, closely followed by the sympathetic Wapoota.
Waroonga was not much depressed by this failure. He knew that truth would prevail in time, and did not expect that the natural enmity of man would be overcome at the very first sound of the Gospel. He was therefore agreeably surprised when, on the afternoon of that same day, Ongoloo entered the hut which had been set apart for him and the two Ratinga chiefs, and said—
"Come, brother, I have called a council of my warriors. Come, you shall see the working of the Great Father."
The missionary rose at once and went after the chief with much curiosity, accompanied by Tomeo and Buttchee: Zeppa and his son, with Ebony and the pirate, being still in the mountains.
Ongoloo led them to the top of a small hill on which a sacred hut or temple stood. Here the prisoners of war used to be slaughtered, and here the orgies of heathen worship were wont to be practised. An immense crowd of natives—indeed the entire tribe except the sick and infirm—crowned the hill. This, however, was no new sight to the missionary, and conveyed no hint of what was pending.
The crowd stood in two orderly circles—the inner one consisting of the warriors, the outer of the women and children. Both fell back to let the chief and his party pass.
As the temple-hut was open at one side, its interior, with the horrible instruments of execution and torture, as well as skulls, bones, and other ghastly evidences of former murder, was exposed to view. On the centre of the floor lay a little pile of rudely carved pieces of timber, with some loose cocoa-nut fibre beneath them. A small fire burned on something that resembled an altar in front of the hut.
The chief, standing close to this fire, cleared his throat and began an address with the words, "Men, warriors, women and children, listen!" And they did listen with such rapt attention that it seemed as if not only ears, but eyes, mouths, limbs, and muscles were engaged in the listening act, for this mode of address—condescending as it did to women and children—was quite new to them, and portended something unusual.
"Since these men came here," continued the chief, pointing to Waroonga and his friends, "we have heard many wonderful things that have made us think. Before they came we heard some of the same wonderful things from the great white man, whose head is light but whose heart is wise and good. I have made up my mind, now, to become a Christian. My warriors, my women, my children need not be told what that is. They have all got ears and have heard. I have assembled you here to see my gods burned (he pointed to the pile in the temple), and I ask all who are willing, to join me in making this fire a big one. I cannot compel your souls. I could compel your bodies, but I will not!"
He looked round very fiercely as he said this, as though he still had half a mind to kill one or two men to prove his point, and those who stood nearest to him moved uneasily, as though they more than half expected him to do some mischief, but the fierce look quickly passed away, and he went on in gentle, measured tones—
"Waroonga tells me that the Book of the Great Father says, those who become Christians must love each other: therefore we must no more hate, or quarrel, or fight, or kill—not even our enemies."
There was evident surprise on every face, and a good deal of decided shaking of heads, as if such demands were outrageous.
"Moreover, it is expected of Christians that they shall not revenge themselves, but suffer wrong patiently."
The eyebrows rose higher at this.
"Still more; it is demanded that we shall forgive our enemies. If we become Christians, we must open our arms wide, and take the Raturans to our hearts!"
This was a climax, as Ongoloo evidently intended, for he paused a long time, while loud expressions of dissent and defiance were heard on all sides, though it was not easy to see who uttered them.
"Now, warriors, women and children, here I am—a Christian—who will join me?"
"I will!" exclaimed Wapoota, stepping forward with several idols in his arms, which he tossed contemptuously into the temple.
There was a general smile of incredulity among the warriors, for Wapoota was well known to be a time-server: nevertheless they were mistaken, for the jester was in earnest this time.
Immediately after that, an old, white-headed warrior, bent nearly double with infirmity and years, came forward and acted as Wapoota had done. Then, turning to the people, he addressed them in a weak, trembling voice. There was a great silence, for this was the patriarch of the tribe; had been a lion-like man in his youth, and was greatly respected.
"I join the Christians," he said, slowly. "Have I not lived and fought for long—very long?"
"Yes, yes," from many voices.
"And what good has come of it?" demanded the patriarch. "Have not the men of the Mountain fought with the men of the Swamp since the Mountain and the Swamp came from the hand of the Great Father?" (A pause, and again, "Yes, yes," from many voices.) "And what good has come of it? Here is the Mountain; yonder is the Swamp, as they were from the beginning; and what the better are we that the swamp has been flooded and the mountain drenched with the blood of our fathers? Hatred has been tried from the beginning of time, and has failed. Let us now, my children, try Love, as the Great Father counsels us to do."
A murmur of decided applause followed the old man's speech, and Ongoloo, seizing him by both shoulders, gazed earnestly into his withered face. Had they been Frenchmen, these two would no doubt have kissed each other's cheeks; if Englishmen, they might have shaken hands warmly; being Polynesian savages, they rubbed noses.
Under the influence of this affectionate act, a number of the warriors ran off, fetched their gods, and threw them on the temple floor. Then Ongoloo, seizing a brand from the fire, thrust it into the loose cocoa-nut fibre, and set the pile in a blaze. Quickly the flames leaped into the temple thatch, and set the whole structure on fire. As the fire roared and leaped, Waroonga, with Tomeo and Buttchee, started a hymn. It chanced to be one which Zeppa had already taught the people, who at once took it up, and sent forth such a shout of praise as had never before echoed among the palm-groves of that island. It confirmed the waverers, and thus, under the influence of sympathy, the whole tribe came that day to be of one mind!
The sweet strains, rolling over the plains and uplands, reached the cliffs at last, and struck faintly on the ears of a small group assembled in a mountain cave. The group consisted of Zeppa and his son, Ebony and the pirate.
"It sounds marvellously like a hymn," said Orlando, listening.
"Ah! dear boy, it is one I taught the natives when I stayed with them," said Zeppa; "but it never reached so far as this before."
Poor Zeppa was in his right mind again, but oh! how weak and wan and thin the raging fever had left him!
Rosco, who was also reduced to a mere shadow of his former self, listened to the faint sound with a troubled expression, for it carried him back to the days of innocence, when he sang it at his mother's knee.
"Dat's oncommon strange," said Ebony. "Nebber heard de sound come so far before. Hope de scoundrils no got hold ob grog."
"Shame on you, Ebony, to suspect such a thing!" said Orlando. "You would be better employed getting things ready for to-morrow's journey than casting imputations on our hospitable friends."
"Dar's not'ing to git ready, massa," returned the negro. "Eberyting's prepared to start arter breakfust."
"That's well, and I am sure the change to the seashore will do you good, father, as well as Rosco. You've both been too long here. The cave is not as dry as one could wish—and, then, you'll be cheered by the sound of children playing round you."
"Yes, it will be pleasant to have Lippy running out and in again," said Zeppa.
They did not converse much, for the strength of both Zeppa and Rosco had been so reduced that they could not even sit up long without exhaustion, but Orlando kept up their spirits by prattling away on every subject that came into his mind—and especially of the island of Ratinga.
While they were thus engaged they heard the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, and next moment Tomeo and Buttchee bounded over the bushes, glaring and panting from the rate at which they had raced up the hill to tell the wonderful news!
"Eberyting bu'nt?" exclaimed Ebony, whose eyes and teeth showed so much white that his face seemed absolutely to sparkle.
"Everything. Idols and temple!" repeated the two chiefs, in the Ratinga tongue, and in the same breath.
"An' nebber gwine to fight no more?" asked Ebony, with a grin, that might be more correctly described as a split, from ear to ear.
"Never more!" replied the chiefs.
Next morning the two invalids were tenderly conveyed on litters down the mountain side and over the plain, and before the afternoon had passed away, they found a pleasant temporary resting-place in the now Christian village.
The slopes and knolls and palm-fringed cliffs of Ratinga were tipped with gold by the western sun one evening as he declined towards his bed in the Pacific, when Marie Zeppa wandered with Betsy Waroonga and her brown little daughter Zariffa towards the strip of bright sand in front of the village.
The two matrons, besides being filled with somewhat similar anxieties as to absent ones, were naturally sympathetic, and frequently sought each other's company. The lively Anglo-French woman, whose vivacity was not altogether subdued even by the dark cloud that hung over her husband's fate, took special pleasure in the sedate, earnest temperament of her native missionary friend, whose difficulty in understanding a joke, coupled with her inability to control her laughter when, after painful explanation, she did manage to comprehend one, was a source of much interest—an under-current, as it were, of quiet amusement.
"Betsy," said Marie, as they walked slowly along, their naked feet just laved by the rippling sea, "why do you persist in wearing that absurd bonnet? If you would only let me cut four inches off the crown and six off the front, it would be much more becoming. Do let me, there's a dear. You know I was accustomed to cutting and shaping when in England."
"But what for the use?" asked Betsy, turning her large brown eyes solemnly on her companion. "It no seems too big to me. Besides, when brudder Gubbins give him to me he—"
"Who is brudder Gubbins?" asked Marie, with a look of smiling surprise.
"Oh! you know. The min'ster—Gubbins—what come to the mission-station just afore me an' Waroonga left for Ratinga."
"Oh! I see; the Reverend Mr Gubbins—well, what did he say about the bonnet?"
"W'at did he say? ah! he say much mor'n I kin remember, an' he look at the bonnet with's head a one side—so sad an' pitiful like. 'Ah! Betsy Waroonga,' ses he, 'this just the thing for you. Put it on an' take it to Ratinga, it'll press the natives there.'"
"Impress them, you mean, Betsy."
"Well, p'raps it was that. Anyhow I put it on, an' he looked at me so earnest an' ses with a sigh, 'Betsy,' ses he, 'it minds me o' my grandmother, an' she was a good old soul—brought me up, Betsy, she did. Wear it for her sake an' mine. I make a present of it to you.'"
"Ah! Betsy," said Marie, "the Reverend Gubbins must be a wag, I suspect."
"W'at's a wag, Marie?"
"Don't you know what a wag is?"
"Oh, yis, I know. When leetil bird sit on a stone an shake hims tail, I've heerd you an Orley say it wag—but misser Gubbins he got no tail to wag—so how can he wag it?"
"I didn't say he wagged it, Betsy," returned Marie, repressing a laugh, "but—you'll never get to understand what a wag means, so I won't try to explain. Look! Zariffa is venturesome. You'd better call her back."
Zariffa was indeed venturesome. Clad in a white flannel petticoat and a miniature coal-scuttle, she was at that moment wading so deep into the clear sea that she had to raise the little garment as high as her brown bosom to keep it out of the water; and with all her efforts she was unsuccessful, for, with that natural tendency of childhood to forget and neglect what cannot be seen, she had allowed the rear-part of the petticoat to drop into the sea.
This, however, occasioned little or no anxiety to Betsy Waroonga, for she was not an anxious mother; but when, raising her eyes a little higher, she beheld the tip of the back-fin of a shark describing lively circles in the water as if it had scented the tender morsel and were searching for it, her easy indifference vanished. She gave vent to a yell and made a bound that told eloquently of the savage beneath the missionary, and, in another instant was up to the knees in the water with the coal-scuttle quivering violently. Seizing Zariffa, she squeezed her almost to the bursting point against her palpitating breast, while the shark headed seaward in bitter disappointment.
"Don't go so deep agin, Ziffa," said the mother, with a gasp, as she set her little one down on the sand.
"No, musser," said the obedient child; and she kept on the landward side of her parent thereafter with demonstrative care.
It may be remarked here that, owing to Waroonga's love for, and admiration of, white men, Zariffa's native tongue was English—broken, of course, to the pattern of her parents.
"It was a narrow escape, Betsy," said Marie, solemnised by the incident.
"Yes, thank the Lord," replied the other, continuing to gaze out to sea long after the cause of her alarm had disappeared.
"Oh! Marie," she added, with a sigh, "when will the dear men come home?"
The question drove all the playful humour out of poor Marie, and her eyes filled with sudden tears.
"When, indeed? Oh! Betsy, my man will never come. For Orley and the others I have little fear, but my Antonio—"
Poor Marie could say no more. Her nature was as quickly, though not as easily, provoked to deep sorrow as to gaiety. She covered her face with her hands.
As she did so the eyes of Betsy, which had for some time been fixed on the horizon, opened to their widest, and her countenance assumed a look so deeply solemn that it might have lent a touch of dignity even to the coal-scuttle bonnet, if it had not bordered just a little too closely on the ridiculous.
"Ho! Marie," she exclaimed in a whisper so deep that her friend looked up with a startled air; "see! look—a sip."
"A ship—where?" said the other, turning her eager gaze on the horizon. But she was not so quick-sighted as her companion, and when at length she succeeded in fixing the object with her eyes, she pronounced it a gull.
"No 'snot a gull—a sip," retorted Betsy.
"Ask Zariffa. Her eyes are better than ours," suggested Marie.
"Kumeer, Ziffa!" shouted Betsy.
Zariffa came, and, at the first glance, exclaimed. "A sip!"
The news spread in a moment for other and sharper eyes in the village had already observed the sail, and, ere long, the beach was crowded with natives.
By that time most of the Ratingans had adopted more or less, chiefly less, of European costume, so that the aspect of the crowd was anything but savage. It is true there were large proportions of brown humanity presented to view—such as arms, legs, necks, and chests, but these were picturesquely interspersed with striped cotton drawers, duck trousers, gay guernseys, red and blue flannel petticoats, numerous caps and straw hats as well as a few coal-scuttles—though none of the latter could match that of Betsy Waroonga for size and tremulosity.
But there were other signs of civilisation there besides costume, for, in addition to the neat huts and gardens and whitewashed church, there was a sound issuing from the pointed spire which was anything but suggestive of the South sea savage. It was the church bell—a small one, to be sure, but sweetly toned—which was being rung violently to call in all the fighting men from the woods and fields around, for at that time the Ratingans had to be prepared for the reception of foes as well as friends.
A trusty chief had been placed in charge of the village by Tomeo before he left. This man now disposed his warriors in commanding positions as they came trooping in, obedient to the call, and bade them keep out of sight and watch his signals from the beach.
But now let us see what vessel it was that caused such commotion in Ratinga.
She was a brig, with nothing particularly striking in her rig or appointments—a mere trading vessel. But on her bulwarks at the bow and on the heel of the bowsprit was gathered a group that well deserves notice, for there, foremost of all, and towering above the others, stood Antonio Zeppa, holding on to a forestay, and gazing with intensity and fixedness at the speck of land which had just been sighted. Beside him, and not less absorbed, stood his valiant and amiable son; while around, in various attitudes, sat or stood the chiefs Tomeo and Buttchee, Rosco and Ebony, Ongoloo and Wapoota, and little Lippy with her mother!
But the native missionary was not there. He had positively refused to quit the desert which had so unexpectedly and suddenly begun to blossom as the rose, and had remained to water the ground until his friends should send for him.
The chief and prime minister of the Mountain-men were there because, being large-minded, they wished to travel and see the world; and Lippy was there because Zeppa liked her; while the mother was there because she liked Lippy and refused to be parted from her.
Great was the change which had come over Zeppa during his convalescence. The wild locks and beard had been cut and trimmed; the ragged garments had been replaced by a suit belonging to Orley, and the air of wild despair, alternating with vacant simplicity, which characterised him in his days of madness, had given place to the old, sedate, sweet look of gentle gravity. It is true the grey hairs had increased in number, and there was a look, or, rather, an effect, of suffering in the fine face which nothing could remove; but much of the muscular vigour and the erect gait had been regained during those months when he had been so carefully and untiringly nursed by his son on Sugar-loaf Island.
It was not so with the ex-pirate. Poor Rosco was a broken man. The shock to his frame from the partial burning and the subsequent amputation of his feet had been so great that a return to anything like vigour seemed out of the question. But there was that in the expression of his faded face, and in the light of his sunken eye, which carried home the conviction that the ruin of his body had been the saving of his soul.
"I cannot tell you, Orley, how thankful I am," said Zeppa, "that this trader happened to touch at the island. As I grew stronger my anxiety to return home became more and more intense; and to say truth, I had begun to fear that Captain Fitzgerald had forgotten us altogether."
"No fear of that, father. The captain is sure to keep his promise. He will either return, as he said, or send some vessel to look after us. What are you gazing at, Ebony?"
"De steepil, massa. Look!" cried the negro, his whole face quivering with excitement, and the whites of his eyes unusually obtrusive as he pointed to the ever-growing line of land on the horizon, "you see him?— glippering like fire!"
"I do see something glittering," said Orlando, shading his eyes with his hand; "yes, it must be the steeple of the church, father. Look, it was not there when you left us. We'll soon see the houses now."
"Thank God!" murmured Zeppa, in a deep, tremulous voice.
"Can you see it, Rosco?" said Orley.
The pirate turned his eyes languidly in the direction pointed out.
"I see the land," he said faintly, "and I join your father in thanking God for that—but—but it is not home to me."
"Come, friend," said Zeppa, laying his hand gently on the poor man's shoulder, "say not so. It shall be home to you yet, please God. If He has blotted out the past in the cleansing blood of the Lamb, what is man that he should remember it? Cheer up, Rosco, you shall find a home and a welcome in Ratinga."
"Always returning good for evil, Zeppa," said Rosco, in a more cheerful voice. "I think it is this tremendous weakness that crushes my spirits, but come—I'll try to 'cheer up,' as you advise."
"Dat's right massa!" cried Ebony, in an encouraging tone; "an' jus' look at the glipperin' steepil. He'll do yous heart good—somet'ing like de fire in de wilderness to de Jipshins—"
"To the Israelites you mean," said Orley.
"Ah, yis—de Izlrights, to be sure. I mis-remembered. Ho! look; dar's de house-tops now; an' the pine grove whar' we was use to hold palaver 'bout you, Massa, arter you was lost; an'—yis—dat's de house—yous own house. You see de wife lookin' out o' winder bery soon. I knows it by de pig-sty close 'longside whar' de big grumper sow libs, dat Ziffa's so fond o' playin' wid. Ho! Lippy, come here, you little naked ting," (he caught up the child an' sat her on his broad shoulder). "You see de small leetil house. Dat's it. Dat's whar' Ziffa lubs to play, but she'll hab you to play wid soon, an' den she'll forsake de ole sow. Ho! but I forgit—you no understan' English."
Hereupon Ebony began to translate his information as he best could into the language of the little creature, in which effort he was not very successful, being an indifferent linguist.
Meanwhile the vessel gradually neared the island, stood into the lagoon, and, finally, dropped anchor. A boat was at once lowered and made for the shore.
And oh! how intensely and intently did those in the boat and those on the shore gaze at each other as the space between them diminished!
"They not look like enemies," said Betsy in subdued tones.
"And I don't think they are armed," returned Marie, with palpitating heart, "but I cannot yet make out the faces—only, they seem to be white, some of them."
"Yis, an' some of 'em's brown."
Thus—on the shore. In the boat:—
"Now den, massa, you sees her—an' ha! ha! dar's Betsy. I'd know her 'mong a t'ousind. You sees de bonnit—tumblin' about like a jollyboat in a high sea; an' Ziffa too wid de leetil bonnit, all de same shape, kin you no' see her?"
Zeppa protested, rather anxiously, that he could not see them, and no wonder, for just then his eyes were blinded by tears which no amount of wiping sufficed to clear away.
At that moment a shriek was heard on shore, and Betsy was seen to spring, we are afraid to say how many feet, into the air.
"Dar', she's reco'nised us now!" exclaimed Ebony with delight; and it was evident that he was right for Betsy continued to caper upon the sands in a manner that could only be the result of joy or insanity, while the coal-scuttle beat tempestuously about her head like an enraged balloon.
Another moment and a signal from the chief brought the ambushed Christian warriors pouring down to the shore to see the long-lost and loved ones reunited, while Ebony ran about in a state of frantic excitement, weeping copiously, and embracing every one who came in his way.
But who shall describe the agony of disappointment endured by poor Betsy when she found that Waroonga was not among them? the droop of the spirits, the collapse of the coal-scuttle! Language is impotent. We leave it to imagination, merely remarking that she soon recovered on the faith of the happiness which was yet in store for her.
And now, once again, we find ourselves in the palm-grove of Ratinga Island. It is a fine autumn afternoon. The air is still as regards motion, but thrilling with the melody of merry human voices as the natives labour in the fields, and alive with the twittering of birds as they make love, quarrel, and make it up again in the bushes. Now and then a hilarious laugh bursts from a group of children, or a hymn rises from some grateful heart, for as yet there is no secular music in Ratinga!
In the lagoon lies a man-of-war, its sails neatly furled, and its trim rigging, dark hull, and taper spars, perfectly reproduced in the clear water.
As the sun sank lower towards the west, our friend Ebony might have been seen slowly climbing the side of one of the neighbouring hills with Richard Rosco, the ex-pirate, on his back.
"Set me down now, my friend," said Rosco, "you are far too good to me; and let me know what it is you have to say to me. You have quite roused my curiosity by your nods and mysterious manner. Out with it now, whatever it is."
The negro had placed Rosco in such a position on a ledge of rock that he could see the lagoon and the ship at anchor.
The ex-pirate had by that time recovered some of his former strength, and, although there rested on his countenance an air of profound sadness, there mingled with it a hue of returning health, which none who saw him land had expected to see again. But the care of gentle hands and the power of gladsome emotions had wrought miraculously on the man, body and soul.
"I's heerd massa an' Cappin Fizzroy talkin' about you," said the negro, crossing his arms on his chest and regarding his questioner with a somewhat quizzical expression.
"Ha! I thought so. I am wanted, eh?"
"Well, yis, you's wanted, but you's not getted yet—so far as I knows."
"Ah! Ebony," returned Rosco, shaking his head, "I have long expected it, and now I am prepared to meet my deserved fate like a man—I may humbly say, a Christian man, thanks to God the Saviour and Zeppa the instrument. But, tell me, what did the commander of the man-of-war say?"
"What did he say? Well, I's tell you. Fust he hoed into massa's house an' shook hands with missis, also wid Missis Waroonga wot happined to be wid her, an' hims so frindly dat he nigh shookt de bonnit off her head. Den dey talk 'bout good many t'ings, an' after a while de cappin turn full on massa, an say,—
"'I's told Missr Zeppa dat you's got dat willain Rosco de pirit here.'
"Ho! you should hab see poor massa's face how it grow long, I most t'ink it also grow a leetil pale, an' missis she give a squeak what she couldn't help, an' Betsy she giv' a groan an' jump up, slap on hers bonnit, back to de front, an' begin to clar out, but de cappin jump up an' stop her. 'Many apologies,' ses de hipperkrit 'for stoppin' a lady, but I don't want any alarm given. You know dat de pirit's life am forfitid to his country, so ob course you'll gib him up.'"
"And what said Zeppa to that?" asked Rosco eagerly.
"I's just a-goin' to tell you, massa. You see I's in de back kishen at de time an' hear ebery word. 'Well,' ses massa, awful slow an' unwillin' like, 'I cannot deny that Rosco is in the island, but I do assure you, sir, that he is quite unable to do any furder mischief to any one, for—an massa stop all of a suddint.'
"'Well,' ses de cappin, 'why you not go on?'
"'Has you a description of him?' he asked.
"'Oh! yes,' ses de cappin, drawin' out a paper an' readin' it. De bery ting, as like you it was as two pease, even to de small mole on side ob you's nose, but it say not'ing 'bout you's feet. Clarly he nebber heerd ob dat an' massa he notice dat, seems to me, for he ses, 'Well, Cappin Fizzerald, it may be your duty to seize dis pirit and deliber him up to justice, but it's no duty ob mine to help you.'
"'Oh! as to dat,' ses de cappin, 'I'll easily find him widout your assistance. I have a party of men with me, and no one knows or even suspects de reason ob my visit. But all of you who now hear me mus' promise not to say a word about this matter till my search is over. I believe you to be an honourable Christian man, Zeppa, who cannot break his word; may these ladies be relied on?'
"'Dey may,' ses massa, in a voice ob woe dat a'most made me cry. So w'en I hear dat I tink's to myself, 'oh! you British hipperkrit, you's not so clebber as you t'inks, for Ebony's got to wind'ard ob you,' an' wid dat I slips out ob do back winder an' run to you's cottage, an' ask if you'd like to have a ride on my back as usual, an' you say yis, an'— now you's here, an' I dessay de cappin's lookin' for you."
"It is very kind of you, Ebony," said Rosco, with a deep sigh and a shake of the head, "very kind, both of you and Zeppa, but your efforts cannot now avail me. Just consider. If the description of me possessed by Captain Fitzgerald is as faithful and minute as you say, the mere absence of my feet could not deceive him. Besides, when I am found, if the commander of the man-of-war asks me my name I will not deny it, I will give myself up."
"But if you do dey will hang you!" said Ebony in a somewhat exasperated tone.
"Even so. It is my fate—and deserved."
"But it would be murder to hang a innercent man what's bin reformed, an' don't mean for to do no more mischief—not on'y so, but can't!"
"I fear you won't get the broken law to look at it in that light, Ebony."
"Broken law! what does I care for de broken law? But tell me, massa, hab you make up you's mind to gib youself up?"
"I have," returned Rosco sadly.
"Quite sure an' sartin'?"
"Quite," returned Rosco, with a faint smile at the poor negro's persistency.
"Well, den, you come an' hab a last ride on my back. Surely you no kin refuse so small a favour to dis yar black hoss w'ats carried you so of in, afore you die!"
"Of course not, my poor fellow! but to what purpose—of what use will it be to delay matters? It will only prolong the captain's search needlessly."
"Oh! nebber mind. Der's good lot o' huts in de place to keep de hipperkrit goin'. Plenty ob time for a last leetil ride. Besides, I want you to see a place I diskiver not long ago—most koorious place— you nebber see."
"Come along, then," said Rosco, thinking it right to humour one who had been more like a brother than a servant to him during his long illness, "stoop down. Now, then, heave!"
In a twinkling Rosco was on the back of his "black horse," which carried him a considerable distance in among the hills.
"Ah! Ebony," said the rider at last, "I feel sure you are deceiving me—that you hope to conceal me here, but it is of no use, I tell you, for I won't remain concealed."
"No, massa, I not deceive you. I bring you here to show you de stronary place I hab diskiver, an ax you what you t'ink ob him."
"Well, show it me quickly, and then let us hasten home."
Without replying, the negro clambered up a somewhat steep and rugged path which brought them to the base of a low precipice which was partially fringed with bushes. Pushing one of these aside, he entered a small cavern not much larger than a sentry-box, which seemed to have no outlet; but Ebony, placing his right foot on a projection of rock just large enough to receive it, raised himself upwards so as to place his left foot on another projection, which enabled him to get on what appeared to be a shelf of rock. Rising up, he entered another cavern.
"A strange place truly, but very dark," said Rosco; "does it extend far?"
"You'll see, jus' now," muttered the negro, obtaining a light by means of flint and steel, with which he kindled a torch. "You see I's bin 'splorin' here before an' got t'ings ready."
So saying, he carried Rosco through several winding passages until he gained a cavern so large and high, that the torch was unable to reveal either its extent or its roof.
"Wonderful! why did you not tell us of this place before, Ebony?"
"'Cause I on'y just diskiver him, 'bout a week past. I t'ink him splendid place for hide our wimen an childers in, if we's iver 'tacked by savages. See, I even make some few preparations—got straw in de corner for lie on—soon git meat an' drink if him's required."
"Very suitable indeed, but if you have brought me here to hide, as I still suspect, my poor fellow, you have troubled yourself in vain, for my mind is made up."
"Dat's berry sad, massa, berry sad," returned Ebony, with a deep sigh, "but you no object sit on de straw for a bit an' let me rest. Dere now. You's growin' heavier every day, massa. I stick de torch here for light. Look, here you see I hab a few t'ings. Dis is one bit ob rope wid a loop on him."
"And what may that be for?" asked Rosco, with some curiosity.
"For tie up our enemies when we's catch dem. Dis way, you understan'."
As he spoke, Ebony passed the loop over Rosco's shoulders and drew it tight so as to render his arms powerless, and before the latter realised what he was about his legs were also securely bound.
"Surely you do not mean to keep me here by force!" cried Rosco angrily.
"I's much afraid, massa, dat's zactly what I mean!"
"Come, come, Ebony, you have carried this jest far enough. Unbind me!"
"Berry sorry to disoblige you, massa, but dat's impossible just now."
"I command you, sir, to undo this rope!" cried Rosco fiercely.
"Dere's a good deal ob de ole ring about dat, sar, but you's not a pirit cappen now, an' I ain't one ob de pirit crew."
Rosco saw at once the absurdity of giving way to anger, and restrained himself.
"But you cannot restrain my voice, Ebony," he continued, "and I promise you that I will shout till I am heard."
"Shout away, massa, much as you please. Bu'st you's lungs if you like, for you's in de bow'ls ob de hill here."
Rosco felt that he was in the negro's powers and remained silent.
"I's berry sorry to leave you tied up," said Ebony, rising to quit the place, "but when men is foolish like leetil boys, dey must be treat de same. De straw will keep you comf'rable. I daren't leave de torch, but I'll soon send you food by a sure messenger, and come back myself soon as iver I can."
"Stay, Ebony, I'm at your mercy, and as no good can come of my remaining bound, I must give in. Will you unbind me if I promise to remain quiet?"
"Wid pleasure," said the negro cheerfully, as his glistening teeth showed themselves. "You promise to wait here till I come for you?"
"An' you promise not to shout?"
In a moment the rope was cast off, and Rosco was free. Then Ebony, bidding him keep up his heart, glided out of the cavern and left him in profound darkness.
Captain Fitzgerald searched the island high and low, far and wide, without success, being guided during the search chiefly by Ebony.
That wily negro, on returning to the village, found that the search had already begun. The captain had taken care that no one, save those to whom he had already spoken, should know what or who he was searching for, so that the pirate might not be prematurely alarmed. Great, therefore, was his surprise when he was accosted by the negro, and asked in a mysterious manner to step aside with him out of ear-shot of the sailors who assisted him.
"What have you got to say to me, my man?" he asked, when they had gone a few yards into the palm-grove.
"You's lookin' for the pirit!" said Ebony in a hoarse whisper, and with a superhumanly intelligent gaze.
"Why, how came you to know that?" asked the captain, somewhat perplexed and thrown off his guard.
"Ho! ho!" laughed Ebony in a subdued voice, "how I comes to know dat, eh? I come to knows many t'ings by putting dis an' dat togider. You's cappen ob man-ob-war. Well, you no comes here for notting. Well, Rosco de pirit, de horroble scoundril, hims lib here. Ob course you come for look for him. Hofficers ob de Brish navy got notting else to do but kotch an' hang sitch varmints. Eh? I's right?"
"Well, no," returned Captain Fitzgerald, laughing, "not altogether right as to the duties of officers of the British navy. However, you're right as to my object, and I see that this pirate is no friend of yours."
"No friend, oh! no—not at all. Him's far more nor dat. I lub him as a brudder," said the negro with intense energy.
Captain Fitzgerald laughed again, for he supposed that the negro spoke ironically, and Ebony extended his thick lips from ear to ear because he foresaw and intended that the captain would fall into that mistake.
"Now you lose no time in sarch for him," said Ebony, "an' dis yar nigger will show you de way."
"Do, my fine fellow, and when we find him, I'll not forget your services."
"You's berry good, a'most too good," said Ebony, with an affectionate look at his new employer.
So, as we have said, the village and island were searched high and low without success. At last, while the searching party was standing, baffled, on the shore farthest from the village, Captain Fitzgerald stopped abruptly, and looking Zeppa in the face, exclaimed, "Strange, is it not? and the island so small, comparatively."
"Quite unaccountable," answered Zeppa, who, with his son, had at last joined in the search out of sheer anxiety as to Rosco's fate.
"Most perplexing!" said Orlando.
"Most amazin'!" murmured Ebony, with a look of disappointment that baffles description.
Suddenly the negro pointed to the beach, exclaiming, "Oh! I knows it now! Look dare. You see two small canoes? Dere wor tree canoes dare yisterday. De t'ird wan am dare now. Look!"
They all looked eagerly at the horizon, where a tiny speck was seen. It might have been a gull or an albatross.
"Impossible," said Zeppa. "Where could he hope to escape to in that direction—no island within a thousand miles?"
"A desprit man doos anyt'ing, massa."
"Well. I shall soon find out, for the wind blows in that direction," said the captain, wheeling about and returning to his ship.
Soon the sails were spread, the anchor weighed, the coral reef passed, and the good ship was leaping merrily over the sea in pursuit of the pirate, while Ebony was seated on the straw beside Rosco, expanding his mouth to an extent that it had never reached before, and causing the cavern to ring with uproarious laughter.
It need scarcely be said that the man-of-war did not overtake the pirate's canoe!
She cruised about for some days in the hope of falling in with it. Then her course was altered, and she was steered once more for Ratinga. But the elements seemed to league with Ebony in this matter, for, ere she sighted the island, there burst upon her one of those tremendous hurricanes with which the southern seas are at times disturbed. So fierce was the tempest that the good ship was obliged to present her stern to the howling blast, and scud before it under bare poles.
When the wind abated, Captain Fitzgerald found himself so far from the scene of his recent visit, and so pressed for time, as well as with the claims of other duties—possibly, according to Ebony, the capturing and hanging of other pirates—that he resolved to postpone his visit until a more convenient season. The convenient season never came. Captain Fitzgerald returned home to die, and with him died the memory of Rosco the pirate—at least as far as public interest in his capture and punishment was concerned—for some of the captain's papers were mislaid and lost and among them the personal description of the pirate, and the account of his various misdeeds.
But Rosco himself did not die. He lived to prove the genuine nature of his conversion, and to assist Waroonga in his good work. As it is just possible that some reader may doubt the probability—perhaps even the possibility—of such a change, we recommend him to meditate on the fact that Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, became Paul, the loving Apostle of the Lord.
One morning, not long after the events just narrated, Zeppa came to Rosco's hut with a bundle under his arm. He was followed by Marie, Betsy, Zariffa, and Lippy with her mother. By that time Lippy had been provided with a bonnet similar to that of her friend Ziffa, and her mother had been induced to mount a flannel petticoat, which she wore tied round her neck or her waist, as her fancy or her forgetfulness inclined her. The party had accompanied Zeppa to observe the effect of this bundle on Rosco.
That worthy was seated on a low couch constructed specially for him by Ebony. He was busy reading.
"Welcome, friends all," he said, with a look of surprise at the deputation-like visit.
"We have come to present you with a little gift, Rosco," said Zeppa, unrolling the bundle and holding up to view a couple of curious machines.
"Wooden legs!" exclaimed Rosco with something between a gasp and a laugh.
"That's what they are, Rosco. We have been grieved to see you creeping about in such a helpless fashion, and dependent on Ebony, or some other strong-backed fellow, when you wanted to go any distance, so Orlando and I have put our heads together, and produced a pair of legs."
While he was speaking the on-lookers gazed in open-eyed-and-mouthed expectancy, for they did not feel quite sure how their footless friend would receive the gift.
"It is kind, very kind of you," he said, on recovering from his surprise; "but how am I to fix them on? there's no hole to shove the ends of my poor legs into."
"Oh! you don't shove your legs into them at all," said Zeppa; "you've only got to go on your knees into them—see, this part will fit your knees pretty well—then you strap them on, make them fast, and away you go. Let's try them."
To the delight of the women and children, Rosco was quite as eager to try on the legs as they were to see him do it. The bare idea of being once more able to walk quite excited the poor man, and his hands trembled as he tried to assist his friend in fixing them.
"Keep your hands away altogether," said Zeppa; "you only delay me. There now, they're as tight as two masts. Hold on to me while I raise you up."
At that moment Tomeo, Buttchee, Ebony, Ongoloo, Wapoota, and Orlando came upon the scene.
"What a shame, father," cried the latter, "to begin without letting us know!"
"Ah! Orley, I'm sorry you have found us at it. Marie and I had planned giving you a surprise by making Rosco walk up to you."
"Never mind," cried Rosco impatiently; "just set me on my pins, and I'll soon walk into him. Now then, hoist away!"
Orley and his father each seized an arm, and next moment Rosco stood up.
"Now den, don' hurry him—hurrah!" cried Ebony, giving a cheer of encouragement.
"Have a care, friends; don't let me go," said Rosco anxiously, clutching his supporters' necks with a convulsive grasp. "I'll never do it, Zeppa. I feel that if you quit me for an instant, I shall go down like a shot."
"No fear. Here, cut him a staff, Ebony," said Zeppa; "that'll be equal to three legs, you know, and even a stool can stand alone with three legs."
The staff was cut and handed to the learner, who, planting it firmly on the ground before him, leaned on it, and exclaimed, "Let go!" in tones which instantly suggested "the anchor" to his friends.
The order was obeyed, and the ex-pirate stood swaying to and fro, and smiling with almost childlike delight. Presently he became solemn, lifted one leg, and set it down again with marvellous rapidity. Then he lifted the other leg with the same result. Then he lifted the staff, but had to replace it smartly to prevent falling forward.
"I fear I can only do duty as a motionless tripod," he said rather anxiously.
"Nebber fear, massa—oh! Look out!"
The latter exclamation was caused by Rosco falling backwards; to prevent which catastrophe he made a wild flourish with his arms, and a sweep with his staff, which just grazed the negro's cheek. Zeppa, however, caught him in his arms, and set him up again.
"Now then, try once more," he said encouragingly.
Rosco tried, and in the course of half-an-hour managed, with many a stagger and upheaval of the arms and staff to advance about eight or ten yards. At this point, however, he chanced to place the end of the right leg on a soft spot of ground. Down it went instantly to the knee, and over went the learner on his side, snapping the leg short off in the fall!