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A Set of Rogues by Frank Barrett

Part 5 out of 6

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"Aye," says I, as valiantly as you please, "and ready to fight another
half-dozen such rascals," but pulling the broken door open, all the
same, to get out the easier, in case they returned.

"Why, then, let's go," says he, "unless any is minded to have us stay."

No one responding to this challenge, we made ado to find a couple of
hats and cloaks for our use and sallied out.

"Which way do we turn?" asks Dawson, as we come into the road.

"Whither would you go, Jack?"

"Why, to warn Moll of her danger, to be sure."

I apprehended no danger to her, and believed her husband would defend
her in any case better than we could, but Dawson would have it we should
warn them, and so we turned towards the Court. And now upon examination
we found we had come very well out of this fight; for save that the
wound in Dawson's hand had been opened afresh, we were neither much the
worse.

"But let us set our best foot foremost, Jack," says I, "for I do think
we have done more mischief to-night than any we have before, and I shall
not be greatly surprised if we are called to account for the death of
old Simon or some of his hirelings."

"I know not how that may be," says he, "but I must answer for knocking
of somebody's teeth out."

CHAPTER XXXIII.

_We take Moll to Greenwich; but no great happiness for her there._

In the midst of our heroics I was greatly scared by perceiving a cloaked
figure coming hurriedly towards us in the dim light.

"'Tis another, come to succour his friends," whispers I. "Let us step
into this hedge."

"Too late," returns he. "Put on a bold face, 'tis only one."

With a swaggering gait and looking straight before us, we had passed the
figure, when a voice calls "Father!" and there turning, we find that
'tis poor Moll in her husband's cloak.

"Where is thy husband, child?" asks Dawson, as he recovers from his
astonishment, taking Moll by the hand.

"I have no husband, father," answers she, piteously.

"Why, sure he hath not turned you out of doors?"

"No, he'd not do that," says she, "were I ten times more wicked than I
am."

"What folly then is this?" asks her father.

"'Tis no folly. I have left him of my own free will, and shall never go
back to him. For he's no more my husband than that house is mine"
(pointing to the Court), "Both were got by the same means, and both are
lost."

Then briefly she told how they had been turned from the gate by Peter,
and how Mr. Godwin was now as poor and homeless as we. And this news
throwing us into a silence with new bewilderment, she asks us simply
whither we are going.

"My poor Moll!" is all the answer Dawson can make, and that in a broken,
trembling voice.

"'Tis no good to cry," says she, dashing aside her tears that had sprung
at this word of loving sympathy, and forcing herself to a more cheerful
tone. "Why, let us think that we are just awake from a long sleep to
find ourselves no worse off than when we fell a-dreaming. Nay, not so
ill," adds she, "for you have a home near London. Take me there, dear."

"With all my heart, chuck," answers her father, eagerly. "There, at
least, I can give you a shelter till your husband can offer better."

She would not dispute this point (though I perceived clearly her mind
was resolved fully never to claim her right to Mr. Godwin's roof), but
only begged we should hasten on our way, saying she felt chilled; and in
passing Mother Fitch's cottage she constrained us to silence and
caution; then when we were safely past she would have us run, still
feigning to be cold, but in truth (as I think) to avoid being overtaken
by Mr. Godwin, fearing, maybe, that he would overrule her will. This way
we sped till Moll was fain to stop with a little cry of pain, and
clapping her hand to her heart, being fairly spent and out of breath.
Then we took her betwixt us, lending her our arms for support, and
falling into a more regular pace made good progress. We trudged on till
we reached Croydon without any accident, save that at one point, Moll's
step faltering and she with a faint sob weighing heavily upon our arms,
we stopped, as thinking her strength overtaxed, and then glancing about
me I perceived we were upon that little bridge where we had overtaken
Mr. Godwin and he had offered to make Moll his wife. Then I knew 'twas
not fatigue that weighed her down, and gauging her feelings by my own
remorse, I pitied this poor wife even more than I blamed myself; for had
she revealed herself to him at that time, though he might have shrunk
from marriage, he must have loved her still, and so she had been spared
this shame and hopeless sorrow.

At Croydon we overtook a carrier on his way to London for the Saturday
market, who for a couple of shillings gave us a place in his waggon with
some good bundles of hay for a seat, and here was rest for our tired
bodies (though little for our tormented minds) till we reached Marsh
End, where we were set down; and so, the ground being hard with frost,
across the Marsh to Greenwich about daybreak. Having the key of his
workshop with him, Dawson took us into his lodgings without disturbing
the other inmates of the house (who might well have marvelled to see us
enter at this hour with a woman in a man's cloak, and no covering but a
handkerchief to her head), and Moll taking his bed, we disposed
ourselves on some shavings in his shop to get a little sleep.

Dawson was already risen when I awoke, and going into his little
parlour, I found him mighty busy setting the place in order, which was
in a sad bachelor's pickle, to be sure--all littered up with odds and
ends of turning, unwashed plates, broken victuals, etc., just as he had
left it.

"She's asleep," says he, in a whisper. "And I'd have this room like a
little palace against she comes into it, so do you lend me a hand, Kit,
and make no more noise than you can help. The kitchen's through that
door; carry everything in there, and what's of no use fling out of the
window into the road."

Setting to with a will, we got the parlour and kitchen neat and proper,
plates washed, tiles wiped, pots and pans hung up, furniture furbished
up, and everything in its place in no time; then leaving me to light a
fire in the parlour, Dawson goes forth a-marketing, with a basket on his
arm, in high glee. And truly to see the pleasure in his face later on,
making a mess of bread and milk in one pipkin and cooking eggs in
another (for now we heard Moll stirring in her chamber), one would have
thought that this was an occasion for rejoicing rather than grief, and
this was due not to want of kind feeling, but to the fond, simple nature
of him, he being manly enough in some ways, but a very child in others.
He did never see further than his nose (as one says), and because it
gave him joy to have Moll beside him once more, he must needs think
hopefully, that she will quickly recover from this reverse of fortune,
and that all will come right again.

Our dear Moll did nothing to damp his hopes, but played her part bravely
and well to spare him the anguish of remorse that secretly wrung her own
heart. She met us with a cheerful countenance, admired the neatness of
the parlour, the glowing fire, ate her share of porridge, and finding
the eggs cooked hard, declared she could not abide them soft. Then she
would see her father work his lathe (to his great delight), and begged
he would make her some cups for eggs, as being more to our present
fashion than eating them from one's hand.

"Why," says he, "there's an old bed-post in the corner that will serve
me to a nicety. But first I must see our landlord and engage a room for
Kit and me; for I take it, my dear," adds he, "you will be content to
stay with us here."

"Yes," answers she, "'tis a most cheerful view of the river from the
windows."

She tucked up her skirt and sleeves to busy herself in household
matters, and when I would have relieved her of this office, she begged
me to go and bear her father company, saying with a piteous look in her
eyes that we must leave her some occupation or she should weary. She was
pale, there were dark lines beneath her eyes, and she was silent; but I
saw no outward sign of grief till the afternoon, when, coming from
Jack's shop unexpected, I spied her sitting by the window, with her face
in her hands, bowed over a piece of cloth we had bought in the morning,
which she was about to fashion into a plain gown, as being more suitable
to her condition than the rich dress in which she had left the Court.

"Poor soul!" thinks I; "here is a sad awaking from thy dream of riches
and joy."

Upon a seasonable occasion I told Dawson we must soon begin to think of
doing something for a livelihood--a matter which was as remote from his
consideration as the day of wrath.

"Why, Kit," says he, "I've as good as fifty pounds yet in a hole at the
chimney back."

"Aye, but when that's gone--" says I.

"That's a good way hence, Kit, but there never was such a man as you for
going forth to meet troubles half way. However, I warrant I shall find
some jobs of carpentry to keep us from begging our bread when the pinch
comes."

Not content to wait for this pinch, I resolved I would go into the city
and enquire there if the booksellers could give me any employment
--thinking I might very well write some good sermons on honesty,
now I had learnt the folly of roguery. Hearing of my purpose
the morning I was about to go, Moll takes me aside and asks me in a
quavering voice if I knew where Mr. Godwin might be found. This question
staggered me a moment, for her husband's name had not been spoken by any
of us since the catastrophe, and it came into my mind now that she
designed to return to him, and I stammered out some foolish hint at
Hurst Court.

"No, he is not there," says he, "but I thought maybe that Sir Peter
Lely--"

"Aye," says I; "he will most likely know where Mr. Godwin may be found."

"Can you tell me where Sir Peter lives?"

"No; but I can learn easily when I am in the city."

"If you can, write the address and send him this," says she, drawing a
letter from her breast. She had writ her husband's name on it, and now
she pressed her lips to it twice, and putting the warm letter in my
hand, she turned away, her poor mouth twitching with smothered grief. I
knew then that there was no thought in her mind of seeing her husband
again.

I carried the letter with me to the city, wondering what was in it. I
know not now, yet I think it contained but a few words of explanation
and farewell, with some prayer, maybe, that she might be forgiven and
forgotten.

Learning where Sir Peter Lely lived, I myself went to his house, and he
not being at home, I asked his servant if Mr. Godwin did sometimes come
there.

"Why, yes, sir, he was here but yesterday," answers he. "Indeed, never a
day passes but he calls to ask if any one hath sought him."

"In that case," says I, slipping a piece in his ready hand, and fetching
out Moll's letter, "you will give him this when he comes next."

"That I will, sir, and without fail. But if you would see him, sir, he
bids me say he is ever at his lodging in Holborn, from five in the
evening to eight in the morning."

"'Twill answer all ends if you give him that letter. He is in good
health, I hope."

"Well, sir, he is and he isn't, as you may say," answers he, dropping
into a familiar, confidential tone after casting his eye over me to be
sure I was no great person. "He ails nothing, to be sure, for I hear he
is ever afoot from morn till even a-searching hither and thither; but a
more downhearted, rueful looking gentleman for his age I never see.
'Twixt you and me, sir, I think he hath lost his sweetheart, seeing I am
charged, with Sir Peter's permission, to follow and not lose sight of
any lady who may chance to call here for him."

I walked back to Greenwich across the fields, debating in my mind
whether I should tell Moll of her husband's distress or not, so
perplexed with conflicting arguments that I had come to no decision when
I reached home.

Moll spying me coming, from her window in the front of the house, met me
at the door, in her cloak and hood, and begged I would take her a little
turn over the heath.

"What have you to tell me?" asks she, pressing my arm as we walked on.

"I have given your letter to Sir Peter Lely's servant, who promises to
deliver it faithfully to your husband."

"Well," says she, after a little pause of silence, "that is not all."

"You will be glad to know that he is well in health," says I, and then I
stop again, all hanging in a hedge for not knowing whether it were wiser
to speak or hold my tongue.

"There is something else. I see it in your face. Hide nothing from me
for love's sake," says she, piteously. Whereupon, my heart getting the
better of my head (which, to be sure, was no great achievement), I told
all as I have set it down here.

"My dear, dear love! my darling Dick!" says she, in the end. And then
she would have it told all over again, with a thousand questions, to
draw forth more; and these being exhausted, she asks why I would have
concealed so much from her, and if I did fear she would seek him.

"Nay, my dear," says I; "'tis t'other way about. For if your husband
does forgive you, and yearns but to take you back into his arms, it
would be an unnatural, cruel thing to keep you apart. Therefore, to
confess the whole truth, I did meditate going to him and showing how we
and not you are to blame in this matter, and then telling him where he
might find you, if on reflection he felt that he could honestly hold you
guiltless. But ere I do that (as I see now), I must know if you are
willing to this accommodation; for if you are not, then are our wounds
all opened afresh to no purpose, but to retard their healing."

She made no reply nor any comment for a long time, nor did I seek to
bias her judgment by a single word (doubting my wisdom). But I perceived
by the quivering of her arm within mine that a terrible conflict 'twixt
passion and principle was convulsing every fibre of her being. At the
top of the hill above Greenwich she stopped, and, throwing back her
hood, let the keen wind blow upon her face, as she gazed over the grey
flats beyond the river. And the air seeming to give her strength and a
clearer perception, she says, presently:

"Accommodation!" (And she repeats this unlucky word of mine twice or
thrice, as if she liked it less each time.) "That means we shall agree
to let bygones be bygones, and do our best to get along together for the
rest of our lives as easily as we may."

"That's it, my dear," says I, cheerfully.

"Hush up the past," continues she, in the same calculating tone;
"conceal it from the world, if possible. Invent some new lie to deceive
the curious, and hoodwink our decent friends. Chuckle at our success,
and come in time" (here she paused a moment) "to 'chat so lightly of our
past knavery, that we could wish we had gone farther in the business.'"
Then turning about to me, she asks: "If you were writing the story of my
life for a play, would you end it thus?"

"My dear," says I, "a play's one thing, real life's another; and believe
me, as far as my experience goes of real life, the less heroics there
are in it the better parts are those for the actors in't."

She shook her head fiercely in the wind, and, turning about with a
brusque vigour, cries, "Come on. I'll have no accommodation. And yet,"
says she, stopping short after a couple of hasty steps, and with a
fervent earnestness in her voice, "and yet, if I could wipe out this
stain, if by any act I could redeem my fault, God knows, I'd do it, cost
what it might, to be honoured once again by my dear Dick."

"This comes of living in a theatre all her life," thinks I. And indeed,
in this, as in other matters yet to be told, the teaching of the stage
was but too evident.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

_All agree to go out to Spain again in search of our old jollity._

Another week passed by, and then Dawson, shortsighted as he was in his
selfishness, began to perceive that things were not coming all right, as
he had expected. Once or twice when I went into his shop, I caught him
sitting idle before his lathe, with a most woe-begone look in his face.

"What's amiss, Jack?" asks I, one day when I found him thus.

He looked to see that the door was shut, and then says he, gloomily:

"She don't sing as she used to, Kit; she don't laugh hearty."

I hunched my shoulders.

"She doesn't play us any of her old pranks," continues he. "She don't
say one thing and go and do t'other the next moment, as she used to do.
She's too good."

What could I say to one who was fond enough to think that the summer
would come back at his wish and last for ever?

"She's not the same, Kit," he goes on. "No, not by twenty years. One
would say she is older than I am, yet she's scarce the age of woman. And
I do see she gets more pale and thin each day. D'ye think she's fretting
for _him_?"

"Like enough, Jack," says I. "What would you? He's her husband, and 'tis
as if he was dead to her. She cannot be a maid again. 'Tis young to be a
widow, and no hope of being wife ever more."

"God forgive me," says he, hanging his head.

"We did it for the best," says I. "We could not foresee this."

"'Twas so natural to think we should be happy again being all together.
Howsoever," adds he, straightening himself with a more manful vigour,
"we will do something to chase these black dogs hence."

On his lathe was the egg cup he had been turning for Moll; he snapped it
off from the chuck and flung it in the litter of chips and shavings, as
if 'twere the emblem of his past folly.

It so happened that night that Moll could eat no supper, pleading for
her excuse that she felt sick.

"What is it, chuck?" says Jack, setting down his knife and drawing his
chair beside Moll's.

"The vapours, I think," says she, with a faint smile.

"Nay," says he, slipping his arm about her waist and drawing her to him.
"My Moll hath no such modish humours. 'Tis something else. I have
watched ye, and do perceive you eat less and less. Tell us what ails
you."

"Well, dear," says she, "I do believe 'tis idleness is the root of my
disorder."

"Idleness was never wont to have this effect on you."

"But it does now that I am grown older. There's not enough to do. If I
could find some occupation for my thoughts, I should not be so silly."

"Why, that's a good thought. What say you, dear, shall we go
a-play-acting again?"

Moll shook her head.

"To be sure," says he, scratching his jaw, "we come out of that business
with no great encouragement to go further in it. But times are mended
since then, and I do hear the world is more mad for diversion now than
ever they were before the Plague."

"No, dear," says Moll, "'tis of no use to think of that I couldn't play
now."

After this we sat silent awhile, looking into the embers; then Jack,
first to give expression to his thoughts, says:

"I think you were never so happy in your life, Moll, as that time we
were in Spain, nor can I recollect ever feeling so free from care
myself,--after we got out of the hands of that gentleman robber. There's
a sort of infectious brightness in the sun, and the winds, blow which
way they may, do chase away dull thoughts and dispose one to jollity;
eh, sweetheart? Why, we met never a tattered vagabond on the road but he
was halloing of ditties, and a kinder, more hospitable set of people
never lived. With a couple of rials in your pocket, you feel as rich and
independent as with an hundred pounds in your hand elsewhere."

At this point Moll, who had hitherto listened in apathy to these
eulogies, suddenly pushing back her chair, looks at us with a strange
look in her eyes, and says under her breath, "Elche!"

"Barcelony for my money," responds Dawson, whose memories of Elche were
not so cheerful as of those parts where we had led a more vagabond life.

"Elche!" repeats Moll, twining her fingers, and with a smile gleaming in
her eyes.

"Does it please you, chuck, to talk of these matters?"

"Yes, yes!" returns she, eagerly. "You know not the joy it gives me"
(clapping her hand on her heart). "Talk on."

Mightily pleased with himself, her father goes over our past
adventures,--the tricks Moll played us, as buying of her petticoat while
we were hunting for her, our excellent entertainment in the mountain
villages, our lying abed all one day, and waking at sundown to think it
was daybreak, our lazy days and jovial nights, etc., at great length;
and when his memory began to give out, giving me a kick of the shin, he
says:

"Han't you got anything to say? For a dull companion there's nothing in
the world to equal your man of wit and understanding"; which, as far as
my observation goes, was a very true estimation on his part.

But, indeed (since I pretend to no great degree of wit or
understanding), I must say, as an excuse for my silence, that during his
discourse I had been greatly occupied in observing Moll, and trying to
discover what was passing in her mind. 'Twas clear this talk of Spain
animated her spirit beyond ordinary measure, so that at one moment I
conceived she did share her father's fond fancy that our lost happiness
might be regained by mere change of scene, and I confess I was persuaded
somewhat to this opinion by reflecting how much we owe to circumstances
for our varying moods, how dull, sunless days will cast a gloom upon our
spirits, and how a bright, breezy day will lift them up, etc. But I
presently perceived that the stream of her thoughts was divided; for
though she nodded or shook her head, as occasion required, the strained,
earnest expression in her tightened lips and knitted brows showed that
the stronger current of her ideas flowed in another and deeper channel.
Maybe she only desired her father to talk that she might be left the
freer to think.

"'Twas near about this time of the year that we started on our travels,"
said I, in response to Dawson's reminder.

"Aye, I recollect 'twas mighty cold when we set sail, and the fruit
trees were all bursting into bloom when we came into France. I would we
were there now; eh, Moll?"

"What, dear?" asks she, rousing herself at this direct question.

"I say, would you be back there now, child?"

"Oh, will you take me there if I would go?"

"With all my heart, dear Moll. Is there anything in the world I'd not do
to make you happy?"

She took his hand upon her knee, and caressing it, says:

"Let us go soon, father."

"What, will you be dancing of fandangos again?" asks he; and she nods
for reply, though I believe her thoughts had wandered again to some
other matter.

"I warrant I shall fall into the step again the moment I smell garlic;
but I'll rehearse it an hour to-morrow morning, that we may lose no
time. Will you have a short petticoat and a waist-cloth again, Moll?"

She, with her elbows on her knees now, and her chin in her hands,
looking into the fire, nodded.

"And you, Kit," continues he, "you'll get a guitar and play tunes for
us, as I take it you will keep us company still."

"Yes, you may count on me for that," says I.

"We shan't have Don Sanchez to play the tambour for us, but I wager I
shall beat it as well as he; though, seeing he owes us more than we owe
him, we might in reason call upon him, and--"

"No, no; only we three," says Moll.

"Aye, three's enough, in all conscience, and seeing we know a bit of the
language, we shall get on well enough without him. I do long, Moll, to
see you a-flinging over my shoulder, with your clappers going, your
pretty eye and cheek all aglow with pleasure, and a court full of senors
and caballeros crying 'Hole!' and casting their handkerchiefs at your
feet."

Moll fetched a long, fluttering sigh, and, turning to her father, says
in an absent way: "Yes, dear; yes. When shall we go?"

Then, falling to discussing particulars, Dawson, clasping his hands upon
his stomach, asked with a long face if at this season we were likely to
fall in with the equinoxes on our voyage, and also if we could not hit
some point of Spain so as to avoid crossing the mountains of Pyranee and
the possibility of falling again into the hands of brigands. To which I
replied that, knowing nothing of the northern part of Spain and its
people, we stood a chance of finding a rude climate, unsuitable to
travelling at this time of year, and an inhospitable reception, and
that, as our object was to reach, the South as quickly as possible, it
would be more to our advantage to find a ship going through the straits
which would carry us as far as Alicante or Valencia. And Moll supporting
my argument very vigorously, Dawson gave way with much less reluctance
than I expected at the outset. But, indeed, the good fellow seemed now
ready to make any sacrifice of himself so that he might see his Moll
joyous again.

When I entered his shop the next morning, I found him with his coat off,
cutting capers, a wooden platter in his hand for a tambourine, and the
sweat pouring down his face.

"I am a couple of stone or so too heavy for the boleros," gasps he,
coming to a stand, "but I doubt not, by the time we land at Alicante,
there'll not be an ounce too much of me."

Learning that a convoy for the Levant was about to set sail with the
next favourable wind from Chatham, we took horse and rode there that
afternoon, and by great good luck we found the Faithful Friend, a good
ship bound for Genoa in Italy, whereof Mr. Dixon, the master, having
intent to enter and victual at Alicante, undertook to carry us there for
ten pounds a head, so being we could get all aboard by the next evening
at sundown.

Here was short grace, to be sure; but we did so despatch our affairs
that we were embarked in due time, and by daybreak the following
morning, were under weigh.

CHAPTER XXXV.

_How we lost our poor Moll, and our long search for her._

We reached Alicante the 15th March, after a long, tedious voyage. During
this time I had ample opportunity for observing Moll, but with little
relief to my gloomy apprehensions. She rarely quitted her father's side,
being now as sympathetic and considerate of him in his sufferings, as
before she had been thoughtless and indifferent. She had ever a gentle
word of encouragement for him; she was ever kind and patient. Only once
her spirit seemed to weary: that was when we had been beating about in
the bay of Cadiz four days, for a favourable gale to take us through the
straits. We were on deck, she and I, the sails flapping the masts idly
above our heads.

"Oh," says she, laying her hand on my shoulder, and her wasted cheek
against my arm, "oh, that it were all ended!"

She was sweeter with me than ever she had been before; it seemed as if
the love bred in her heart by marriage must expend itself upon some one.
But though this tenderness endeared her more to me, it saddened me, and
I would have had her at her tricks once more, making merry at my
expense. For I began to see that our happiness comes from within and not
from without, and so fell despairing that ever this poor stricken heart
of hers would be healed, which set me a-repenting more sincerely than
ever the mischief I had helped to do her.

Dawson also, despite his stubborn disposition to see things as he would
have them, had, nevertheless, some secret perception of the incurable
sorrow which she, with all her art, could scarce dissimulate. Yet he
clung to that fond belief in a return of past happiness, as if 'twere
his last hope on earth. When at last our wind sprang up, and we were
cutting through the waters with bending masts and not a crease in the
bellied sails, he came upon deck, and spreading his hands out, cries in
joy:

"Oh, this blessed sunlight! There is nought in the world like it--no,
not the richest wine--to swell one's heart with content."

And then he fell again to recalling our old adventures and mirthful
escapades. He gave the rascals who fetched us ashore a piece more than
they demanded, hugely delighted to find they understood his Spanish and
such quips as he could call to mind. Then being landed, he falls to
extolling everything he sees and hears, calling upon Moll to justify his
appreciation; nay, he went so far as to pause in a narrow street where
was a most unsavoury smell, to sniff the air and declare he could scent
the oranges in bloom. And Lord! to hear him praise the whiteness of the
linen, the excellence of the meat and drink set before us at the posada,
one would have said he had never before seen clean sheets or tasted
decent victuals.

Seeing that neither Moll nor I could work ourselves up (try as we might)
to his high pitch of enthusiasm, he was ready with an excuse for us.

"I perceive," says he, "you are still suffering from your voyage.
Therefore, we will not quit this town before to-morrow" (otherwise I
believe he would have started off on our expedition as soon as our meal
was done). "However," adds he, "do you make enquiry, Kit, if you can get
yourself understood, if there be ever a bull to be fought to-day or any
diversion of dancing or play-acting to-night, that the time hang not too
heavy on our hands."

As no such entertainments were to be had (this being the season of Lent,
which is observed very strictly in these parts), Dawson contented
himself with taking Moll out to visit the shops, and here he speedily
purchased a pair of clappers for her, a tambour for himself, and a
guitar for me, though we were difficult to please, for no clappers
pleased Moll as those she had first bought; and it did seem to me that I
could strike no notes out of any instrument but they had a sad, mournful
tone.

Then nothing would satisfy him but to go from one draper's to another,
seeking a short petticoat, a waist-cloth, and a round hat to Moll's
taste, which ended to his disappointment, for she could find none like
the old.

"Why, don't you like this?" he would say, holding up a gown; "to my eyes
'tis the very spit of t'other, only fresher."

And she demurring, whispers, "To-morrow, dear, to-morrow," with
plaintive entreaty for delay in her wistful eyes. Disheartened, but not
yet at the end of his resources, her father at last proposed that she
should take a turn through the town alone and choose for herself. "For,"
says he, "I believe we do rather hinder than help you with our advice in
such matters."

After a moment's reflection, Moll agreed to this, and saying she would
meet us at the posada for supper, left us, and walked briskly back the
way we had come.

When she was gone, Dawson had never a word to say, nor I either, for
dejection, yet, had I been questioned, I could have found no better
reason for my despondency than that I felt 'twas all a mistake coming
here for happiness.

Strolling aimlessly through the narrow back ways, we came presently to
the market that stands against the port. And here, almost at the first
step, Dawson catches my arm and nods towards the opposite side of the
market-place. Some Moors were seated there in their white clothes, with
bundles of young palm leaves, plaited up in various forms of crowns,
crosses, and the like,--which the people of this country do carry to
church to be blessed on Palm Sunday; and these Moors I knew came from
Elche, because palms grow nowhere else in such abundance.

"Yes," says I, thinking 'twas this queer merchandise he would point out,
"I noticed these Moors and their ware when we passed here a little while
back with Moll."

"Don't you see her there now--at the corner?" asks he.

Then, to my surprise, I perceived Moll in very earnest conversation with
two Moors, who had at first screened her from my sight.

"Come away," continues he. "She left us to go back and speak to them,
and would not have us know."

Why should she be secret about this trifling matter, I asked myself.
'Twas quite natural that, if she recognised in these Moors some old
acquaintance of Elche, she should desire to speak them.

We stole away to the port; and seating ourselves upon some timber, there
we looked upon the sea nigh upon half an hour without saying a word.
Then turning to me, Dawson says: "Unless she speak to us upon this
matter, Kit, we will say nought to her. But, if she say nothing, I shall
take it for a sign her heart is set upon going back to Elche, and she
would have it a secret that we may not be disheartened in our other
project."

"That is likely enough," says I, not a little surprised by his
reasoning. But love sharpens a man's wit, be it never so dull.

"Nevertheless," continues he, "if she can be happier at Elche than
elsewhere, then must we abandon our scheme and accept hers with a good
show of content. We owe her that, Kit."

"Aye, and more," says I.

"Then when we meet to-morrow morning, I will offer to go there, as if
'twas a happy notion that had come to me in my sleep, and do you back me
up with all the spirit you can muster."

So after some further discussion we rose, and returned to our posada,
where we found Moll waiting for us. She told us she had found no clothes
to her liking (which was significant), and said not a word of her
speaking to the Moors in the market-place, so we held our peace on these
matters.

We did not part till late that night, for Moll would sit up with us,
confessing she felt too feverish for sleep; and indeed this was apparent
enough by her strange humour, for she kept no constant mood for five
minutes together. Now, she would sit pensive, paying no heed to us, with
a dreamy look in her eyes, as if her thoughts were wandering far
away--to her husband in England maybe; then she would hang her head as
though she dared not look him in the face even at that distance; and
anon she would recover herself with a noble exaltation, lifting her head
with a fearless mien. And so presently her body drooping gradually to a
reflective posture, she falls dreaming again, to rouse herself suddenly
at some new prompting of her spirit, and give us all her thoughts, all
eagerness for two moments, all melting sweetness the next, with her
pretty manner of clinging to her father's arm, and laying her cheek
against his shoulder. And when at last we came to say good-night, she
hangs about his neck as if she would fain sleep there, quitting him with
a deep sigh and a passionate kiss. Also she kissed me most
affectionately, but could say never a word of farewell to either of
us--hurrying to her chamber to weep, as I think.

We knew not what to conclude from these symptoms, save that she might be
sickening of some disorder; so we to our beds, very down in the mouth
and faint at heart.

About six the next morning I was awoke by the door bursting suddenly
open, and starting up in my bed, I see Dawson at my side, shaking in
every limb, and his eyes wide with terror.

"Moll's gone!" cries he, and falls a-blubbering.

"Gone!" says I, springing out of bed. "'Tis not possible."

"She has not lain in her bed; and one saw her go forth last night as the
doors were closing, knowing her for a foreigner by her hood. Come with
me," adds he, laying his hand on a chair for support. "I dare not go
alone."

"Aye, I'll go with ye, Jack; but whither?"

"Down to the sea," says he, hoarsely.

I stopped in the midst of dressing, overcome by this fearful hint; for,
knowing Moll's strong nature, the thought had never occurred to me that
she might do away with herself. Yet now reflecting on her strange manner
of late, especially her parting with us overnight, it seemed not so
impossible neither. For here, seeing the folly of our coming hither,
desponding of any happiness in the future, was the speediest way of
ending a life that was burdensome to herself and a constant sorrow to
us. Nay, with her notions of poetic justice drawn from plays, she may
have regarded this as the only atonement she could make her husband; the
only means of giving him back freedom to make a happier choice in
marriage. With these conclusions taking shape, I shuffled on my clothes,
and then, with shaking fear, we two, hanging to each other's arms for
strength, made our way through the crooked streets to the sea; and
there, seeing a group of men and women gathered at the water's edge some
little distance from us, we dared not go further, conceiving 'twas a
dead body they were regarding. But 'twas only a company of fishers
examining their haul of fishes, as we presently perceived. So, somewhat
cheered, we cast our eyes to the right and left, and, seeing nothing to
justify our fears, advanced along the mole to the very end, where it
juts out into the sea, with great stones around to break the surf. Here,
then, with deadly apprehensions, we peered amongst the rocks, holding
our breath, clutching tight hold of one another by the hand, in terror
of finding that we so eagerly searched,--a hood, a woman's skirt
clinging to the stones, a stiffened hand thrust up from the lapping
waters. Never may I forget the sickening horror of the moment when,
creeping out amidst the rocks, Dawson twitches my hand, and points down
through the clear water to something lying white at the bottom. It
looked for all the world like a dead face, coloured a greenish white by
the water; but presently we saw, by one end curling over in the swell of
a wave, that 'twas only a rag of paper.

Then I persuaded Dawson to give up this horrid search, and return to our
posada, when, if we found not Moll, we might more justly conclude she
had gone to Elche, than put an end to her life; and though we could
learn nothing of her at our inn, more than Dawson had already told me,
yet our hopes were strengthened in the probability of finding her at
Elche by recollecting her earnest, secret conversation with the Moors,
who might certainly have returned to Elche in the night, they preferring
that time for their journey, as we knew. So, having hastily snatched a
repast, whilst our landlord was procuring mules for our use, we set off
across the plain, doing our best to cheer each other on the way. But I
confess one thing damped my spirits exceedingly, and that was, having no
hint from Moll the night before of this project, which then must have
been fully matured in her mind, nor any written word of explanation and
encouragement. For, thinks I, she being no longer a giddy, heedless
child, ready to play any prank without regard to the consequences, but a
very considerate, remorseful woman, would not put us to this anxiety
without cause. Had she resolved to go to her friends at Elche, she
would, at least, have comforted us with the hope of meeting her again;
whereas, this utter silence did point to a knowledge on her part that we
were sundered for ever, and that she could give us no hope, but such as
we might glean from uncertainty.

Arriving at Elche, we made straight for the house of the merchant, Sidi
ben Ahmed, with whose family Moll had been so intimate previously. Here
we were met by Sidi himself, who, after laying his fingers across his
lips, and setting his hand upon his heart, in token of recognition and
respect, asked us very civilly our business, though without any show of
surprise at seeing us. But these Moors do pride themselves upon a stoic
behaviour at all times, and make it a point to conceal any emotion they
may feel, so that men never can truly judge of their feelings.

Upon explaining our circumstances as well as our small knowledge of the
tongue allowed us, he makes us a gesture of his open hands, as if he
would have us examine his house for ourselves, to see that she was not
hid away there for any reason, and then calling his servants, he bids
them seek through all the town, promising them a rich reward if they
bring any tidings of Lala Mollah. And while this search was being made,
he entertained us at his own table, where we recounted so much of our
miserable history as we thought it advisable he should know.

One by one the servants came in to tell that they had heard nothing,
save that some market-men had seen and spoken with Moll at Alicante, but
had not clapt eyes on her since. Not content with doing us this service,
the merchant furnished us with fresh mules, to carry us back to
Alicante, whither we were now all eagerness to return, in the hope of
finding Moll at the posada. So, travelling all night, we came to our
starting-place the next morning, to learn no tidings of our poor Moll.

We drew some grain of comfort from this; for, it being now the third day
since the dear girl had disappeared, her body would certainly have been
washed ashore, had she cast herself, as we feared, in the sea. It
occurred to us that if Moll were still living, she had either returned
to England, or gone to Don Sanchez at Toledo, whose wise counsels she
had ever held in high respect. The former supposition seemed to me the
better grounded; for it was easy to understand how, yearning for him
night and day, she should at length abandon every scruple, and throw
herself at his feet, reckless of what might follow. 'Twas not
inconsistent with her impulsive character, and that more reasonable view
of life she had gained by experience, and the long reflections on her
voyage hither. And that which supported my belief still more was that a
fleet of four sail (as I learnt) had set forth for England the morning
after our arrival. So now finding, on enquiry, that a carrier was to set
out for Toledo that afternoon, I wrote a letter to Don Sanchez, telling
him the circumstances of our loss, and begging him to let us know, as
speedily as possible, if he had heard aught of Moll. And in this letter
I enclosed a second, addressed to Mr. Godwin, having the same purport,
which I prayed Don Sanchez to send on with all expedition, if Moll were
not with him.

And now, having despatched these letters, we had nothing to do but to
await a reply, which, at the earliest, we could not expect to get before
the end of the week--Toledo being a good eighty English leagues distant.

We waited in Alicante four days more, making seven in all from the day
we lost Moll; and then, the suspense and torment of inactivity becoming
insupportable, we set out again for Elche, the conviction growing strong
upon us, with reflection, that we had little to hope from Don Sanchez.
And we resolved we would not go this time to Sidi ben Ahmed, but rather
seek to take him unawares, and make enquiry by more subtle means, we
having our doubts of his veracity. For these Moors are not honest liars
like plain Englishmen, who do generally give you some hint of their
business by shifting of their eyes this way and that, hawking,
stammering, etc., but they will ever look you calmly and straight in the
face, never at a loss for the right word, or over-anxious to convince
you, so that 'twill plague a conjurer to tell if they speak truth or
falsehood. And here I would remark, that in all my observations of men
and manners, there is no nation in the world to equal the English, for a
straightforward, pious, horse-racing sort of people.

Well, then, we went about our search in Elche with all the slyness
possible, prying here and there like a couple of thieves a-robbing a
hen-roost, and putting cross-questions to every simple fellow we
met,--the best we could with our small knowledge of their tongue,--but
all to no purpose, and so another day was wasted. We lay under the palms
that night, and in the morning began our perquisition afresh; now
hunting up and down the narrow lanes and alleys of the town, as we had
scoured those of Alicante, in vain, until, persuaded of the uselessness
of our quest, we agreed to return to Alicante, in the hope of finding
there a letter from Don Sanchez. But (not to leave a single stone
unturned), we settled we would call once again on Sidi ben Ahmed, and
ask if he had any tidings to give us, but, openly, feeling we were no
match for him at subterfuge. So, to his house we went, where we were
received very graciously by the old merchant, who, chiding us gently for
being in the neighbourhood a whole day without giving him a call, prayed
us to enter his unworthy parlour, adding that we should find there a
friend who would be very pleased to see us.

At this, my heart bounded to such an extent that I could utter never a
word (nor could Dawson either), for I expected nothing less than to find
this friend was our dear Moll; and so, silent and shaking with feverish
anticipation, we followed him down the tiled passage and round the inner
garden of his house by the arcade, till we reached a doorway, and there,
lifting aside the heavy hangings, he bade us enter. We pushed by him in
rude haste, and then stopped of a sudden, in blank amazement; for, in
place of Moll, whom we fully thought to find, we discovered only Don
Sanchez, sitting on some pillows gravely smoking a Moorish chibouk.

"My daughter--my Moll!" cries Dawson, in despair. "Where is she?"

"By this time," replies Don Sanchez, rising, "your daughter should be in
Barbary."

CHAPTER XXXVI.

_We learn what hath become of Moll; and how she nobly atoned for our
sins._

"Barbary--Barbary!" gasps Dawson, thunderstruck by this discovery. "My
Moll in Barbary?"

"She sailed three days ago," says the Don, laying down his pipe, and
rising.

Dawson regards him for a moment or two in a kind of stupor, and then his
ideas taking definite shape, he cries in a fury of passion and clenching
his fists:

"Spanish dog! you shall answer this. And you" (turning in fury upon
Sidi), "you--I know your cursed traffic--you've sold her to the Turk!"

Though Sidi may have failed to comprehend his words, he could not
misunderstand his menacing attitude, yet he faced him with an unmoved
countenance, not a muscle of his body betraying the slightest fear, his
stoic calm doing more than any argument of words to overthrow Dawson's
mad suspicion. But his passion unabated, Dawson turns again upon Don
Sanchez, crying:

"Han't you won enough by your villany, but you must rob me of my
daughter? Are you not satisfied with bringing us to shame and ruin, but
this poor girl of mine must be cast to the Turk? Speak, rascal!" adds
he, advancing a step, and seeking to provoke a conflict. "Speak, if you
have any reason to show why I shouldn't strangle you."

"You'll not strangle me," answers the Don, calmly, "and here's my reason
if you would see it." And with that he tilts his elbow, and with a turn
of the wrist displays a long knife that lay concealed under his forearm.
"I know no other defence against the attack of a madman."

"If I be mad," says Dawson, "and mad indeed I may be, and no
wonder,--why, then, put your knife to merciful use and end my misery
here."

"Nay, take it in your own hand," answers the Don, offering the knife.
"And use it as you will--on yourself if you are a fool, or on me if,
being not a fool, you can hold me guilty of such villany as you charged
me with in your passion."

Dawson looks upon the offered knife an instant with distraction in his
eyes, and the Don (not to carry this risky business too far), taking his
hesitation for refusal, claps up the blade in his waist-cloth, where it
lay mighty convenient to his hand.

"You are wise," says he, "for if that noble woman is to be served, 'tis
not by spilling the blood of her best friends."

"You, her friend!" says Dawson.

"Aye, her best friend!" replies the other, with dignity, "for he is best
who can best serve her."

"Then must I be her worst," says Jack, humbly, "having no power to undo
the mischief I have wrought."

"Tell me, Senor," says I, "who hath kidnapped poor Moll?"

"Nobody. She went of her free will, knowing full well the risk she
ran--the possible end of her noble adventure--against the dissuasions
and the prayers of all her friends here. She stood in the doorway there,
and saw you cross the garden when you first came to seek her--saw you,
her father, distracted with grief and fear, and she suffered you to go
away. As you may know, nothing is more sacred to a Moor than the laws of
hospitality, and by those laws Sidi was bound to respect the wishes of
one who had claimed his protection. He could not betray her secret, but
he and his family did their utmost to persuade her from her purpose.
While you were yet in the town, they implored her to let them call you
back, and she refused. Failing in their entreaties, they despatched a
messenger to me; alas! when I arrived, she was gone. She went with a
company of merchants bound for Alger, and all that her friends here
could do was to provide her with a servant and letters, which will
ensure her safe conduct to Thadviir."

"But why has she gone there, Senor?" says I, having heard him in a maze
of wonderment to the end.

"Cannot you guess? Surely she must have given you some hint of her
purposes, for 'twas in her mind, as I learn, when she agreed to leave
England and come hither."

"Nothing--we know nothing," falters Dawson. "'Tis all mystery and
darkness. Only we did suppose to find happiness a-wandering about the
country, dancing and idling, as we did before."

"That dream was never hers," answers the Don. "She never thought to find
happiness in idling pleasure. 'Tis the joy of martyrdom she's gone to
find, seeking redemption in self-sacrifice."

"Be more explicit, sir, I pray," says I.

"In a word, then, she has gone to offer herself as a ransom for the real
Judith Godwin."

We were too overwrought for great astonishment; indeed, my chief
surprise was that I had not foreseen this event in Moll's desire to
return to Elche, or hit upon the truth in seeking an explanation of her
disappearance. 'Twas of a piece with her natural romantic disposition
and her newly awaked sense of poetic justice,--for here at one stroke
she makes all human atonement for her fault and ours,--earning her
husband's forgiveness by this proof of dearest love, and winning back
for ever an honoured place in his remembrance. And I bethought me of our
Lord's saying that greater love is there none than this: that one shall
lay down his life for another.

For some time Dawson stood silent, his arms folded upon his breast, and
his head bent in meditation, his lips pressed together, and every muscle
in his face contracted with pain and labouring thought. Then, raising
his head and fixing his eyes on the Don, he says:

"If I understand aright, my Moll hath gone to give herself up for a
slave, in the place of her whose name she took."

The Don assents with a grave inclination of his head, and Dawson
continues:

"I ask your pardon for that injustice I did you in my passion; but now
that I am cool I cannot hold you blameless for what has befallen my poor
child, and I call upon you as a man of honour to repair the wrong you've
done me."

Again the Don bows very gravely, and then asks what we would have him
do.

"I ask you," says Dawson, "as we have no means for such an expedition,
to send me across the sea there to my Moll."

"I cannot ensure your return," says the Don, "and I warn you that once
in Barbary you may never leave it."

"I do not want to return if she is there; nay," adds he, "if I may move
them to any mercy, they shall do what they will with this body of mine,
so that they suffer my child to be free."

The Don turns to Sidi, and tells him what Dawson has offered to do;
whereupon the Moor lays his finger across his lips, then his hand on
Dawson's breast, and afterwards upon his own, with a reverence, to show
his respect. And so he and the Don fall to discussing the feasibility of
this project (as I discovered by picking up a word here and there); and,
this ended, the Don turns to Dawson, and tells him there is no vessel to
convey him at present, wherefore he must of force wait patiently till
one comes in from Barbary.

"But," says he, "we may expect one in a few days, and rest you assured
that your wish shall be gratified if it be possible."

We went down, Dawson and I, to the sea that afternoon; and, sitting on
the shore at that point where we had formerly embarked aboard the
Algerine galley, we scanned the waters for a sail that might be coming
hither, and Dawson with the eagerness of one who looked to escape from
slavery rather than one seeking it.

As we sat watching the sea, he fell a-regretting he had no especial gift
of nature, by which he might more readily purchase Moll's freedom of her
captors.

"However," says he, "if I can show 'em the use of chairs and benches,
for lack of which they are now compelled, as we see, to squat on mats
and benches, I may do pretty well with Turks of the better sort who can
afford luxuries, and so in time gain my end."

"You shall teach me this business, Jack," says I, "for at present I'm
more helpless than you."

"Kit," says he, laying hold of my hand, "let us have no misunderstanding
on this matter. You go not to Barbary with me."

"What!" cries I, protesting. "You would have the heart to break from me
after we have shared good and ill fortune together like two brothers all
these years?"

"God knows we shall part with sore hearts o' both sides, and I shall
miss you sadly enough, with no Christian to speak to out there. But 'tis
not of ourselves we must think now. Some one must be here to be a father
to my Moll when she returns, and I'll trust Don Sanchez no farther than
I can see him, for all his wisdom. So, as you love the dear girl, you
will stay here, Kit, to be her watch and ward, and as you love me you
will spare me any further discussion on this head. For I am resolved."

I would say nothing then to contrary him, but my judgment and feeling
both revolted against his decision. For, thinks I, if one Christian is
worth but a groat to the Turk, two must be worth eightpence, therefore
we together stand a better chance of buying Moll's freedom than either
singly. And, for my own happiness, I would easier be a slave in Barbary
with Jack than free elsewhere and friendless. Nowhere can a man be free
from toil and pain of some sort or another, and there is no such solace
in the world for one's discomforts as the company of a true man.

But I was not regardless of Moll's welfare when she returned, neither.
For I argued with myself that Mr. Godwin had but to know of her
condition to find means of coming hither for her succour. So the next
time I met Don Sanchez, I took him aside and told him of my concern,
asking him the speediest manner of sending a letter to England (that I
had enclosed in mine to the Don having missed him through his leaving
Toledo before it arrived).

"There is no occasion to write," says he. "For the moment I learnt your
history from Sidi I sent a letter, apprising him of his wife's innocence
in this business, and the noble reparation she had made for the fault of
others. Also, I took the liberty to enclose a sum of money to meet his
requirements, and I'll answer for it he is now on his way hither. For no
man living could be dull to the charms of his wife, or bear resentment
to her for an act that was prompted by love rather than avarice, and
with no calculation on her part."

This cheered me considerably, and did somewhat return my faith in Don
Sanchez, who certainly was the most extraordinary gentlemanly rascal
that ever lived.

Day after day Dawson and I went down to the sea, and on the fifth day of
our watching (after many false hopes and disappointments) we spied a
ship, which we knew to be of the Algerine sort by the cross-set of its
lateen sails,--making it to look like some great bird with spread wings
on the water,--bearing down upon the shore.

We watched the approach of this ship in a fever of joy and expectation,
for though we dared not breathe our hopes one to another, we both
thought that maybe Moll was there. And this was not impossible. For,
supposing Judith was married happily, she would refuse to leave her
husband, and her mother, having lived so long in that country, might not
care to leave it now and quit her daughter; so might they refuse their
ransom and Moll be sent back to us. And, besides this reasoning, we had
that clinging belief of the unfortunate that some unforeseen accident
might turn to our advantage and overthrow our fears.

The Algerine came nearer and nearer, until at length we could make out
certain figures moving upon the deck; then Dawson, laying a trembling
hand on my sleeve, asked if I did not think 'twas a woman standing in
the fore part; but I couldn't truly answer yes, which vexed him.

But, indeed, when the galley was close enough to drop anchor, being at
some distance from the shore because of the shoals, I could not
distinguish any women, and my heart sank, for I knew well that if Moll
were there, she, seeing us, would have given us some signal of waving a
handkerchief or the like. As soon as the anchor was cast, a boat was
lowered, and being manned, drew in towards us; then, truly, we perceived
a bent figure sitting idle in the stern, but even Dawson dared not
venture to think it might be Moll.

The boat running on a shallow, a couple of Moors stepped into the water,
and lifting the figure in their arms carried it ashore to where we
stood. And now we perceived 'twas a woman muffled up in the Moorish
fashion, a little, wizen old creature, who, casting back her head
clothes, showed us a wrinkled face, very pale and worn with care and
age. Regarding us, she says in plain English:

"You are my countrymen. Is one of you named Dawson?"

"My name is Dawson," says Jack.

She takes his hand in hers, and holding it in hers looks in his face
with great pity, and then at last, as if loath to tell the news she sees
he fears to hear, she says:

"I am Elizabeth Godwin."

What need of more to let us know that Moll had paid her ransom?

CHAPTER XXXVII.

_Don Sanchez again proves himself the most mannerly rascal in the
world._

In silence we led Mrs. Godwin to the seat we had occupied, and seating
ourselves we said not a word for some time. For my own part, the
realisation of our loss threw my spirits into a strange apathy; 'twas as
if some actual blow had stunned my senses. Yet I remember observing the
Moors about their business,--despatching one to Elche for a train of
mules, charging a second boat with merchandise while the first returned,
etc.

"I can feel for you," says Mrs. Godwin at length, addressing Dawson,
"for I also have lost an only child."

"Your daughter Judith, Madam?" says I.

"She died two years ago. Yours still lives," says she, again turning to
Dawson, who sat with a haggard face, rocking himself like one nursing a
great pain. "And while there is life, there's hope, as one says."

"Why, to be sure," says Jack, rousing himself. "This is no more, Kit,
than we bargained for. Tell me, Madam, you who know that country, do you
think a carpenter would be held in esteem there? I'm yet a strong man,
as you see, with some good serviceable years of life before me. D'ye
think they'd take me in exchange for my Moll, who is but a bit of a
girl?"

"She is beautiful, and beauty counts for more than strength and
abilities there, poor man," says she.

"I'll make 'em the offer," says he, "and though they do not agree to
give her freedom, they may yet suffer me to see her time and again, if I
work well."

"'Tis strange," says she. "Your child has told me all your history. Had
I learnt it from other lips, I might have set you down for rogues,
destitute of heart or conscience; yet, with this evidence before me, I
must needs regard you and your dear daughter as more noble than many
whose deeds are writ in gold. 'Tis a lesson to teach me faith in the
goodness of God, who redeems his creatures' follies, with one touch of
love. Be of good cheer, my friend," adds she, laying her thin hand on
his arm. "There _is_ hope. I would not have accepted this ransom--no,
not for all your daughter's tears and entreaties--without good assurance
that I, in my turn, might deliver her."

I asked the old gentlewoman how this might be accomplished.

"My niece," says she, dwelling on the word with a smile, as if happy in
the alliance, "my niece, coming to Barbary of her free will, is not a
slave like those captured in warfare and carried there by force. She
remains there as a hostage for me, and will be free to return when I
send the price of my ransom."

"Is that a great sum?"

"Three thousand gold ducats,--about one thousand pounds English."

"Why, Madam," says Dawson, "we have nothing, being now reduced to our
last pieces. And if you have the goodness to raise this money, Heaven
only knows how long it may be ere you succeed. 'Tis a fortnight's
journey, at the least, to England, and then you have to deal with your
steward, who will seek only to put obstacles in your way, so that six
weeks may pass ere Moll is redeemed, and what may befall her in the
meantime?"

"She is safe. Ali Oukadi is a good man. She has nought to fear while she
is under his protection. Do not misjudge the Moors. They have many
estimable qualities."

"Yet, Madam," says I, "by your saying there is hope, I gather there must
be also danger."

"There is," answers she, at which Jack nods with conviction. "A
beautiful young woman is never free from danger" (Jack assents again).
"There are good and bad men amongst the Moors as amongst other people."

"Aye, to be sure," says Dawson.

"I say she is safe under the protection of Ali Oukadi, but when the
ransom is paid and she leaves Thadviir, she may stand in peril."

"Why, that's natural enough," cries Dawson, "be she amongst Moors or no
Moors; 'tis then she will most need a friend to serve her, and one that
knows the ins and outs of the place and how to deal with these Turks
must surely be better than any half-dozen fresh landed and raw to their
business." Then he fell questioning Mrs. Godwin as to how Moll was
lodged, the distance of Thadviir from Alger, the way to get there, and
divers other particulars, which, together with his eager, cheerful
vivacity, showed clearly enough that he was more firmly resolved than
ever to go into Barbary and be near Moll without delay. And presently,
leaving me with Mrs. Godwin, he goes down to the captain of the galley,
who is directing the landing of goods from the play-boat, and, with such
small store of words as he possessed, aided by plentiful gesture, he
enters into a very lively debate with him, the upshot of which was that
the captain tells him he shall start the next morning at daybreak if
there be but a puff of air, and agrees to carry him to Alger for a
couple of pieces (upon which they clap hands), as Dawson, in high glee,
informs us on his return.

"And now, Kit," says he, "I must go back to Elche to borrow those same
two pieces of Don Sanchez, so I pray you, Madam, excuse me."

But just then the train of mules from Elche appears, and with them Sidi
ben Ahmed, who, having information of Mrs. Godwin coming, brings a
litter for her carriage, at the same time begging her to accept his
hospitality as the true friend of her niece Moll. So we all return to
Elche together, and none so downcast as I at the thought of losing my
friend, and speculating on the mischances that might befall him; for I
did now begin to regard him as an ill-fated man, whose best intentions
brought him nothing but evil and misfortune.

Being come to Elche, Don Sanchez presented himself to Mrs. Godwin with
all the dignity and calm assurance in the world, and though she received
him with a very cold, distant demeanour, as being the deepest rascal of
us all and the one most to blame, yet it ruffled him never a bit, but he
carried himself as if he had never benefited himself a penny by his
roguery and at her expense.

On Dawson asking him for the loan of a couple of pieces and telling his
project, the Don drew a very long serious face and tried his utmost to
dissuade him from it, so that at first I suspected him of being loath to
part with this petty sum; but herein I did him injustice, for, finding
Dawson was by no means to be turned from his purpose, he handed him his
purse, advising him the first thing he did on arriving at Alger to
present himself to the Dey and purchase a firman, giving him protection
during his stay in Barbary (which he said might be done for a few silver
ducats). Then, after discussing apart with Sidi, he comes to Mrs.
Godwin, and says he:

"Madam, with your sanction my friend Sidi ben Ahmed will charge Mr.
Dawson with a letter to Ali Oukadi, promising to pay him the sum of
three thousand gold ducats upon your niece being safely conducted hither
within the space of three weeks."

"Senor," answers she, "I thank Sidi ben Ahmed very deeply--and you
also," adds she, overcoming her compunctions, "for this offer. But
unhappily, I cannot hope to have this sum of money in so short a time."

"It is needless to say, Madam," returns he, with a scrape, "that in
making this proposal I have considered of that difficulty; my friend has
agreed to take my bond for the payment of this sum when it shall be
convenient to you to discharge it."

Mrs. Godwin accepted this arrangement with a profound bow, which
concealed the astonishment it occasioned her. But she drew a long
breath, and I perceived she cast a curious glance at all three of us, as
if she were marvelling at the change that must have taken place in
civilised countries since her absence, which should account for a pack
of thieves nowadays being so very unlike what a pack of thieves was in
her young days.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

_How we hear Moll's sweet voice through the walls of her prison, and
speak two words with her though almost to our undoing._

Having written his letter, Sidi ben Ahmed proposed that Mrs. Godwin
should await the return of Moll before setting out for England, very
graciously offering her the hospitality of his house meanwhile, and this
offer she willingly accepted. And now, there being no reason for my
staying in Elche, Dawson gladly agreed I should accompany him, the more
so as I knew more of the Moors' language than he. Going down with us to
the water side, Don Sanchez gave us some very good hints for our
behaviour in Barbary, bidding us, above everything, be very careful not
to break any of the laws of that country. "For," says he, "I have seen
three men hanged there for merely casting a Turk into the sea in a
drunken frolic."

"Be assured, I'll touch nothing but water for my drink," says Dawson,
taking this warning to his share.

"Be careful," continues the Don, "to pay for all you have, and take not
so much as an orange from a tree by the wayside without first laying a
fleece or two on the ground. I warn you that they, though upright enough
amongst themselves, are crafty and treacherous towards strangers, whom
they regard as their natural enemies; and they will tempt you to break
the law either by provoking a quarrel, or putting you to some unlawful
practice, that they may annul your firman and claim you as convicted
outlaws for their slaves. For stealing a pullet I have seen the flesh
beaten off the soles of an English sailor's feet, and he and his
companions condemned to slavery for life."

"I'll lay a dozen fleeces on the ground for every sour orange I may
take," says Dawson. "And as for quarrelling, a Turk shall pull my nose
before ever a curse shall pass my lips."

With these and other exhortations and promises, we parted, and lying
aboard that night, we set sail by daybreak the next morning, having a
very fair gale off the land; and no ships in the world being better than
these galleys for swiftness, we made an excellent good passage, so that
ere we conceived ourselves half over the voyage, we sighted Alger
looking like nothing but a great chalk quarry for the white houses built
up the side of the hill.

We landed at the mole, which is a splendid construction some fifteen
hundred feet or thereabouts in length (with the forts), forming a
beautiful terrace walk supported by arches, beneath which large,
splendid magazines, all the most handsome in the world, I think. Thence
our captain led us to the Cassanabah, a huge, heavy, square, brick
building, surrounded by high, massive walls and defended by a hundred
pieces of ordnance, cannons, and mortars, all told. Here the Dey or
Bashaw lives with his family, and below are many roomy offices for the
discharge of business. Our captain takes us into a vast waiting-hall
where over a hundred Moors were patiently attending an audience of the
Dey's minister, and there we also might have lingered the whole day and
gone away at night unsatisfied (as many of these Moors do, day after
day, but that counts for nothing with these enduring people), but having
a hint from our friend we found occasion to slip a ducat in the hand of
a go-between officer, who straightway led us to his master. Our captain
having presented us, with all the usual ceremonies, the grandee takes
our letter from Sidi ben Ahmed, reads it, and without further ado signs
and seals us a trader's pass for twenty-eight days, to end at sunset the
day after the festival of Ranadal. With this paper we went off in high
glee, thinking that twenty-eight hours of safe-conduct would have
sufficed us. And so to an eating-house, where we treated our friendly
captain to the best, and greasing his palm also for his good services,
parted in mighty good humour on both sides.

By this time it was getting pretty late in the day; nevertheless, we
burnt with such impatience to be near our dear Moll that we set forth
for Thadviir, which lies upon the seacoast about seven English leagues
east of Alger. But a cool, refreshing air from the sea and the great joy
in our hearts made this journey seem to us the most delightful of our
lives. And indeed, after passing through the suburbs richly planted with
gardens, and crossing the river, on which are many mills, and so coming
into the plain of Mettegia, there is such an abundance of sweet odours
and lovely fertile views to enchant the senses, that a dull man would be
inspirited to a happy, cheerful mood.

'Twas close upon nine o'clock when we reached the little town, and not a
soul to be seen anywhere nor a light in any window, but that troubled us
not at all (having provided ourselves with a good store of victuals
before quitting Alger), for here 'tis as sweet to lie of nights in the
open air as in the finest palace elsewhere. Late as it was, however, we
could not dispose ourselves to sleep before we had gone all round the
town to satisfy our curiosity. At the further extremity we spied a
building looking very majestic in the moonlight, with a large garden
about it enclosed with high walls, and deciding that this must be the
residence of Ali Oukadi, who, we had learnt, was the most important
merchant of these parts, we lay us down against the wall, and fell
asleep, thinking of our dear Moll, who perchance, all unconscious, was
lying within.

Rising at daybreak, for Dawson was mightily uneasy unless we might be
breaking the law by sleeping out-of-doors (but there is no cruel law of
this sort in Barbary), we washed ourselves very properly at a
neighbouring stream, made a meal of dry bread and dates, then, laying
our bundles in a secret place whence we might conveniently fetch them,
if Ali Oukadi insisted on entertaining us a day or two, we went into the
town, and finding, upon enquiry, that this was indeed his palace, as we
had surmised, bethought us what to say and how to behave the most civil
possible, and so presented ourselves at his gate, stating our business.

Presently, we were admitted to an outer office, and there received by a
very bent, venerable old Moor, who, having greeted us with much
ceremony, says, "I am Ali Oukadi. What would you have of me?"

"My daughter Moll," answers Jack, in an eager, choking voice, offering
his letter. The Moor regarded him keenly, and, taking the letter, sits
down to study it; and while he is at this business a young Moor enters,
whose name, as we shortly learnt, was Mohand ou Mohand. He was, I take
it, about twenty-five or thirty years of age, and as handsome a man of
his kind as ever I saw, with wondrous soft dark eyes, but a cruel mouth
and a most high, imperious bearing which, together with his rich clothes
and jewels, betokened him a man of quality. Hearing who we were, he
saluted us civilly enough; but there was a flash of enmity in his eyes
and a tightening of his lips, which liked me not at all.

When the elder man had finished the letter, he hands it to the younger,
and he having read it in his turn, they fall to discussing it in a low
tone, and in a dialect of which not one word was intelligible to us.
Finally, Ali Oukadi, rising from his cushions, says gravely, addressing
Dawson:

"I will write without delay to Sidi ben Ahmed in answer to his letter."

"But my daughter," says Dawson, aghast, and as well as he could in the
Moorish tongue. "Am I not to have her?"

"My friend says nothing here," answers the old man, regarding the
letter, "nothing that would justify my giving her up to you. He says the
money shall be paid upon her being brought safe to Elche."

"Why, your Excellency, I and my comrade here will undertake to carry her
safely there. What better guard should a daughter have than her father?"

"Are you more powerful than the elements? Can you command the tempest?
Have you sufficient armament to combat all the enemies that scour the
seas? If any accident befall you, what is this promise of
payment?--Nothing."

"At least, you will suffer me to make this voyage with my child."

"I do not purpose to send her to Elche," returned the old man, calmly.
"'Tis a risk I will not undertake. I have said that when I am paid three
thousand ducats, I will give Lala Mollah freedom, and I will keep my
word. To send her to Elche is a charge that does not touch my compact.
This I will write and tell my friend, Sidi ben Ahmed, and upon his
payment and expressed agreement I will render you your daughter. Not
before."

We could say nothing for a while, being so foundered by this reverse;
but at length Dawson says in a piteous voice:

"At least you will suffer me to see my daughter. Think, if she were
yours and you had lost her--believing her a while dead--"

Mohand ou Mohand muttered a few words that seemed to fix the old Moor's
wavering resolution.

"I cannot agree to that," says he. "Your daughter is becoming reconciled
to her position. To see you would open her wounds afresh to the danger
of her life, maybe. Reflect," adds he, laying his hand on the letter,
"if this business should come to nought, what could recompense your
daughter for the disappointment of those false hopes your meeting would
inspire? It cannot be."

With this he claps his hands, and a servant, entering at a nod from his
master, lifts the hangings for us to go.

Dawson stammered a few broken words of passionate protest, and then
breaking down as he perceived the folly of resisting, he dropped his
head and suffered me to lead him out. As I saluted the Moors in going, I
caught, as I fancied, a gleam of triumphant gladness in the dark eyes of
Mohand ou Mohand.

Coming back to the place where we had hid our bundles, Dawson cast
himself on the ground and gave vent to his passion, declaring he would
see his Moll though he should tear the walls down to get at her, and
other follies; but after a time he came to his senses again so that he
could reason, and then I persuaded him to have patience, and forbear
from any outburst of violence such as we had been warned against,
showing him that certainly Don Sanchez, hearing of our condition, would
send the money speedily, and so we should get Moll by fair means instead
of losing her (and ourselves) by foul; that after all, 'twas but the
delay of a week or so that we had to put up with, and so forth. Then,
discussing what we should do next, I offered that we should return to
Elche and make our case known rather than trust entirely to Ali Oukadi's
promise of writing; for I did suspect some treacherous design on the
part of Mohand ou Mohand, by which Mrs. Godwin failing of her agreement,
he might possess himself of Moll; and this falling in with Dawson's
wishes, we set out to return to Alger forthwith. But getting to Alger
half-dead with the fatigue of trudging all that distance in the full
heat of the day, we learnt to our chagrin that no ship would be sailing
to Elche for a fortnight at the least, and all the money we had would
not tempt any captain to carry us there; so here were we cast down again
beyond everything for miserable, gloomy apprehensions.

After spending another day in fruitless endeavour to obtain a passage,
nothing would satisfy Dawson's painful, restless spirit but we must
return to Thadviir; so thither we went once more to linger about the
palace of Ali Oukadi, in the poor hope that we might see Moll come out
to take the air.

One day as we were standing in the shade of the garden wall, sick and
weary with dejection and disappointment, Dawson, of a sudden, starts me
from my lethargy by clutching my arm and raising his finger to bid me
listen and be silent. Then straining my ear, I caught the distant sound
of female voices, but I could distinguish not one from another, though
by Dawson's joyous, eager look I perceived he recognised Moll's voice
amongst them. They came nearer and nearer, seeking, as I think, the
shade of those palm trees which sheltered us. And presently, quite close
to us, as if but on the other side of the wall, one struck a lute and
began to sing a Moorish song; when she had concluded her melancholy air
a voice, as if saddened by the melody, sighed:

"Ah me! ah me!"

There was no misdoubting that sweet voice: 'twas Moll's.

Then very softly Dawson begins to whistle her old favourite ditty
"Hearts will break." Scarce had he finished the refrain when Moll within
took it up in a faint trembling voice, but only a bar, to let us know we
were heard; then she fell a-laughing at her maids, who were whispering
in alarm, to disguise her purpose; and so they left that part, as we
knew by their voices dying away in the distance.

"She'll come again," whispers Dawson, feverishly.

And he was in the right; for, after we had stood there best part of an
hour, we hear Moll again gently humming "Hearts will break," but so low,
for fear of being heard by others, that only we who strained so hard to
catch a sound could be aware of it.

"Moll, my love!" whispers Dawson, as she comes to an end.

"Dear father!" answers she, as low.

"We are here--Kit and I. Be comforted, sweet chuck,--you shall be free
ere long."

"Shall I climb the wall?" asks she.

"No, no,--for God's sake, refrain!" says I, seeing that Jack was half
minded to bid her come to him. "You will undo all--have patience."

At this moment other voices came to us from within, calling Lala Mollah;
and presently the quick witch answers them from a distance, with a
laugh, as if she had been playing at catch-who-can.

Then Dawson and I, turning about, discovered to our consternation Ali
Oukadi standing quite close beside us, with folded arms and bent brows.

"You are unwise," says he, in a calm tone.

"Nay, master," says Jack, piteously. "I did but speak a word to my
child."

"If you understand our tongue," adds I, "you will know that we did but
bid her have patience, and wait."

"Possibly," says he. "Nevertheless, you compel me henceforth to keep her
a close prisoner, when I would give her all the liberty possible."

"Master," says Jack, imploring, "I do pray you not to punish her for my
fault. Let her still have the freedom of your garden, and I promise you
we will go away this day and return no more until we can purchase her
liberty for ever."

"Good," says the old man, "but mark you keep your promise. Know that
'tis an offence against the law to incite a slave to revolt. I tell you
this, not as a threat, for I bear you no ill will, but as a warning to
save you from consequences which I may be powerless to avert."

This did seem to me a hint at some sinister design of Mohand ou
Mohand--a wild suspicion, maybe, on my part, and yet, as I think,
justified by evils yet to come.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

_Of our bargaining with a Moorish seaman; and of an English slave._

We lost no time, be sure, in going back to Alger, blessing God on the
way for our escape, and vowing most heartily that we would be led into
no future folly, no matter how simple and innocent the temptation might
seem.

And now began again a tedious season of watching on the mole of Alger;
but not to make this business as wearisome to others, I will pass that
over and come at once to that joyful, happy morning, when, with but
scant hope, looking down upon the deck of a galley entering the port, to
our infinite delight and amazement we perceived Richard Godwin waving
his hand to us in sign of recognition. Then sure, mad with joy, we would
have cast ourselves in the sea had we thereby been able to get to him
more quickly. Nor was he much less moved with affection to meet us, and
springing on the quai he took us both in his open arms and embraced us.
But his first word was of Moll. "My beloved wife?" says he, and could
question us no further.

We told him she was safe, whereat he thanks God most fervently, and how
we had spoken with her; and then he tells us of his adventures--how on
getting Don Sanchez's letter he had started forth at once with such help
as Sir Peter Lely generously placed at his disposition, and how coming
to Elche, he found Mrs. Godwin there in great anxiety because we had not
returned, and how Don Sanchez, guessing at our case, had procured money
from Toledo to pay Moll's ransom, and did further charter a neutral
galley to bring him to Alger--which was truly as handsome a thing as any
man could do, be he thief or no thief. All these matters we discussed on
our way to the Cassanabah, where Mr. Godwin furnished himself as we had
with a trader's permit for twenty-eight days.

[Illustration: "ONLY IN THE MIDST OF OUR JOY I PERCEIVED THAT MOHAND OU
MOHAND HAD ENTERED THE ROOM."]

This done, we set out with a team of good mules, and reaching Thadviir
about an hour before sundown, we repaired at once to Ali Oukadi's, who
received us with much civility, although 'twas clear to see he was yet
loath to give up Moll; but the sight of the gold Mr. Godwin laid before
him did smooth the creases from his brow (for these Moors love money
before anything on earth), and having told it carefully he writes an
acknowledgment and fills up a formal sheet of parchment bearing the
Dey's seal, which attested that Moll was henceforth a free subject and
entitled to safe-conduct within the confines of the Dey's
administration. And having delivered these precious documents into Mr.
Godwin's hands, he leaves us for a little space and then returns leading
dear Moll by the hand. And she, not yet apprised of her circumstances,
seeing her husband with us, gives a shrill cry, and like to faint with
happiness totters forward and falls in his ready arms.

I will not attempt to tell further of this meeting and our passionate,
fond embraces, for 'twas past all description; only in the midst of our
joy I perceived that Mohand ou Mohand had entered the room and stood
there, a silent spectator of Moll's tender yielding to her husband's
caresses, his nostrils pinched, and his jaundiced face overcast with a
wicked look of mortification and envy. And Moll seeing him, paled a
little, drawing closer to her husband; for, as I learnt later on, and
'twas no more than I had guessed, he had paid her most assiduous
attentions from the first moment he saw her, and had gone so far as to
swear by Mahomet that death alone should end his burning passion to
possess her. And I observed that when we parted, and Moll in common
civility offered him her hand, he muttered some oath as he raised it to
his lips.

Declining as civilly as we might Ali Oukadi's tender of hospitality, we
rested that night at the large inn or caravansary, and I do think that
the joy of Moll and her husband lying once more within each other's arms
was scarcely less than we felt, Dawson and I, at this happy ending of
our long tribulations; but one thing it is safe to say, we slept as
sound as they.

And how gay were we when we set forth the next morning for Alger--Moll's
eyes twinkling like stars for happiness, and her cheeks all pink with
blushes like any new bride, her husband with not less pride than passion
in his noble countenance, and Dawson and I as blithe and jolly as
schoolboys on a holiday. For now had Moll by this act of heroism and
devotion redeemed not only herself, but us also, and there was no
further reason for concealment or deceit, but all might be themselves
and fear no man.

Thus did joy beguile us into a false sense of security.

Coming to Alger about midday, we were greatly surprised to find that the
sail chartered by Don Sanchez was no longer in the port, and the reason
of this we presently learnt was that the Dey, having information of a
descent being about to be made upon the town by the British fleet at
Tangier, he had commanded, the night before, all alien ships to be gone
from the port by daybreak. This put us to a quake, for in view of this
descent not one single Algerine would venture to put to sea for all the
money Mr. Godwin could offer or promise. So here we were forced to stay
in trepidation and doubt as to how we, being English, might fare if the
town should be bombarded as we expected, and never did we wish our own
countrymen further. Only our Moll and her husband did seem careless in
their happiness; for so they might die in each other's arms, I do think
they would have faced death with a smile upon their faces.

However, a week passing, and no sign of any English flag upon the seas,
the public apprehension subsided; and now we began very seriously to
compass our return to Elche, our trader's passes (that is, Dawson's and
mine) being run out within a week, and we knowing full well that we
should not get them renewed after this late menace of an English attack
upon the town. So, one after the other, we tried every captain in the
port, but all to no purpose. And one of these did openly tell me the Dey
had forbidden any stranger to be carried out of the town, on pain of
having his vessel confiscated and being bastinadoed to his last
endurance.

"And so," says he, lifting his voice, "if you offered me all the gold in
the world, I would not carry you a furlong hence." But at the same time,
turning his back on a janizary who stood hard by, he gave me a most
significant wink and a little beck, as if I were to follow him
presently.

And this I did as soon as the janizary was gone, following him at a
distance through the town and out into the suburbs, at an idle,
sauntering gait. When we had got out beyond the houses, to the side of
the river I have mentioned, he sits him down on the bank, and I, coming
up, sit down beside him as if for a passing chat. Then he, having
glanced to the right and left, to make sure we were not observed, asks
me what we would give to be taken to Elche; and I answered that we would
give him his price so we could be conveyed shortly.

"When would you go?" asks he.

"Why," says I, "our passes expire at sundown after the day of Ramadah,
so we must get hence, by hook or by crook, before that."

"That falls as pat as I would have it," returns he (but not in these
words), "for all the world will be up at the Cassanabah on that day, to
the feast the Dey gives to honour his son's coming of age. Moreover, the
moon by then will not rise before two in the morning. So all being in
our favour, I'm minded to venture on this business. But you must
understand that I dare not take you aboard in the port, where I must
make a pretence of going out a-fishing with my three sons, and give the
janizaries good assurance that no one else is aboard, that I may not
fall into trouble on my return."

"That's reasonable enough," says I, "but where will you take us aboard?"

"I'll show you," returns he, "if you will stroll down this bank with me,
for my sons and I have discussed this matter ever since we heard you
were seeking a ship for this project, and we have it all cut and dried
properly."

So up we get and saunter along the bank leisurely, till we reached a
part where the river spreads out very broad and shallow.

"You see that rock," says he, nodding at a huge boulder lapped by the
incoming sea. "There shall you be at midnight. We shall lie about a half
a mile out to sea, and two of my sons will pull to the shore and take
you up; so may all go well and nought be known, if you are commonly
secret, for never a soul is seen here after sundown." I told him I would
consult with my friends and give him our decision the next day, meeting
him at this spot.

"Good," says he, "and ere you decide, you may cast an eye at my ship,
which you shall know by a white moon painted on her beam; 'tis as fast a
ship as any that sails from Alger, though she carry but one mast, and so
be we agree to this venture, you shall find the cabin fitted for your
lady and everything for your comfort."

On this we separated presently, and I, joining my friends at our inn,
laid the matter before them. There being still some light, we then went
forth on the mole, and there we quickly spied the White Moon, which,
though a small craft, looked very clean, and with a fair cabin house,
built up in the Moorish fashion upon the stern. And here, sitting down,
we all agreed to accept this offer, Mr. Godwin being not less eager for
the venture than we, who had so much more to dread by letting it slip,
though his pass had yet a fortnight to run.

So the next day I repaired to the rock, and meeting Haroun (as he was
called), I closed with him, and put a couple of ducats in his hand for
earnest money.

"'Tis well," says he, pocketing the money, after kissing it and looking
up to heaven with a "Dill an," which means "It is from God." "We will
not meet again till the day of Ramadah at midnight, lest we fall under
suspicion. Farewell."

We parted as we did before, he going his way, and I mine; but, looking
back by accident before I had gone a couple of hundred yards, I
perceived a fellow stealing forth from a thicket of canes that stood in
the marshy ground near the spot where I had lately stood with Haroun,
and turning again presently, I perceived this man following in my steps.
Then, fairly alarmed, I gradually hastened my pace (but not so quick
neither as to seem to fly), making for the town, where I hoped to escape
pursuit in the labyrinth of little, crooked, winding alleys. As I
rounded a corner, I perceived him out of the tail of my eye, still
following, but now within fifty yards of me, he having run to thus
overreach me; and ere I had turned up a couple of alleys he was on my
heels and twitching me by the sleeve.

"Lord love you, Master," says he, in very good English, but gasping for
breath. "Hold hard a moment, for I've a thing or two to say to you as is
worth your hearing."

So I, mightily surprised by these words, stop; and he seeing the alley
quite empty and deserted, sits down on a doorstep, and I do likewise,
both of us being spent with our exertions.

"Was that man you were talking with a little while back named Haroun?"
asks he, when he could fetch his breath. I nodded.

"Did he offer to take you and three others to Elche, aboard a craft
called the White Moon?"

I nodded again, astonished at his information, for we had not discussed
our design to-day, Haroun and I.

"Did he offer to carry you off in a boat to his craft from the rock on
the mouth?"

Once more I nodded.

"Can you guess what will happen if you agree to this?"

Now I shook my head.

"The villain," says he, "will run you on a shoal, and there will he be
overhauled by the janizaries, and you be carried prisoners back to
Alger. Your freedom will be forfeited, and you will be sold for slaves.
And that's not all," adds he; "the lass you have with you will be taken
from you and given to Mohand ou Mohand, who has laid this trap for your
destruction and the gratification of his lust."

I fell a-shaking only to think of this crowning calamity, and could only
utter broken, unintelligible sounds to express my gratitude for this
warning.

"Listen, Master, if you cannot speak," said he; "for I must quit you in
a few minutes, or get my soles thrashed when I return home. What I have
told you is true, as there is a God in heaven; 'twas overheard by my
comrade, who is a slave in Mohand's household. If you escape this trap,
you will fall in another, for there is no bounds to Mohand's devilish
cunning. I say, if you stay here you are doomed to share our miserable
lot, by one device or another. But I will show you how you may turn the
tables on this villain, and get to a Christian country ere you are a
week older, if you have but one spark of courage amongst you."

CHAPTER XL.

_Of our escape from Barbary, of the pursuit and horrid, fearful
slaughter that followed, together with other moving circumstances._

So Groves, as my man was named, told me how he and eight other poor
Englishmen, sharing the same bagnio, had endured the hardships and
misery of slavery, some for thirteen, and none less than seven, years;
how for three years they had been working a secret tunnel by which they
could escape from their bagnio (in which they were locked up every night
at sundown) at any moment; how for six months, since the completion of
their tunnel, they had been watching a favourable opportunity to seize a
ship and make good their escape (seven of them being mariners); and how
now they were, by tedious suspense, wrought to such a pitch of
desperation that they were ripe for any means of winning their freedom.
"And here," says he, in conclusion, "hath merciful Providence given us
the power to save not only ourselves from this accursed bondage, but
you, also, if you are minded to join us."

Asking him how he proposed to accomplish this end, he replies:

"'Tis as easy as kiss your hand. First, do you accept Haroun's offer?"

"I have," says I.

"Good!" says he, rubbing his hands, and speaking thick with joy. "You
may be sure that Mohand will suffer no one to interfere with your
getting aboard, to the achievement of his design. When is it to be?"

I hesitated a moment, lest I should fall into another trap, trying to
escape from the first; but, seeing he was an Englishman, I would not
believe him capable of playing into the Turks' hands for our undoing,
and so I told him our business was for midnight on the feast of Ramadah.

"Sure, nought but Providence could have ordered matters so well," says
he, doubling himself up, as if unable to control his joy. "We shall be
there, we nine sturdy men. Some shall hide in the canes, and others
behind the rock; and when Haroun rows to shore, four of us will get into
his boat (muffled up as you would be to escape detection), and as soon
as they lay themselves to their oars, their business shall be settled."

"As how?" asks I, shrinking (as ever) from deeds of violence.

"Leave that to us; but be assured they shall not raise a cry that shall
fright your lady. Oh, we know the use of a bow-string as well as any
Turk amongst them. We have that to thank 'em for. Well, these two being
despatched, we return to shore, and two more of our men will get in;
then we four to the felucca, and there boarding, we serve the others as
we served the first two; so back comes one of us to fetch off our other
comrades and you four. Then, all being aboard, we cut our cable, up with
our sail, and by the time Mohand comes, in the morning, to seek his game
on the sand-bank, we shall be half way to Elche, and farther, if
Providence do keep pace with this happy beginning. What say you,
friend?" adds he, noting my reflective mood.

Then I frankly confessed that I would have some assurance of his
honesty.

"I can give you none, Master," says he, "but the word of a good
Yorkshireman. Surely, you may trust me as I trust you; for 'tis in your
power to reveal all to Haroun, and so bring us all to the galleys. Have
you no faith in a poor broken Englishman?"

"Yes," says I; "I'll trust you."

Then we rose, clapping hands, and he left me, with tears of gratitude
and joy in his eyes. Telling my friends I had something of a secret
nature to impart, we went out to the end of the mole, where we were
secure from eavesdroppers, and there I laid the whole story before them,
whereupon we fell debating what we should do, looking at this matter
from every side, with a view to our security; but, slavery lying before
us, and no better means of escaping it coming to our minds, we did at
last unanimously agree to trust Joe Groves rather than Haroun.

The next day there fell a great deluge of rain, and the morrow being the
feast of Ramadah, we regarded this as highly favourable to our escape;
for here when rain falls it ceases not for forty-eight hours, and thus
might we count upon the aid of darkness. And that evening as we were
regarding some merchandise in a bazaar, a fellow sidles up to me, and
whispers (fingering a piece of cloth as if he were minded to buy it):

"Does all go well?"

Then perceiving this was Joe Groves, I answered in the same manner:

"All goes well."

"To-morrow at midnight?"

"To-morrow at midnight," I return. Upon which, casting down the cloth,
he goes away without further sign.

And now comes in the feast of Ramadah with a heavy, steady downpour of
rain all day, and no sign of ceasing at sundown, which greatly contented
us. About ten, the house we lodged in being quite still, and our fear of
accident pressing us to depart, we crept silently out into the street
without let or hindrance (though I warrant some spy of Mohand's was
watching to carry information of our flight to his master), and so
through the narrow deserted alleys to the outskirts of the town, and
thence by the river side to the great rock, with only just so much light
as enabled us to hang together, and no more. And I do believe we should
have floundered into the river o' one side of the marsh of canes or
t'other, but that having gone over this road the last time with the
thought that it might lead us to liberty, every object by the way
impressed itself upon my mind most astonishingly.

Here under this rock stood we above an hour with no sound but the
beating of the rain, and the lap of the water running in from the sea.
Then, as it might be about half-past eleven, a voice close beside us
(which I knew for Joe Groves, though I could see no one but us four,
Jack by my side, and Moll bound close to her husband) says:

"All goes well?"

"Yes, all goes well," says I; whereupon he gives a cry like the croak of
a frog, and his comrades steal up almost unseen and unheard, save that
each as he came whispered his name, as Spinks, Davis, Lee, Best, etc.,
till their number was all told. Then Groves, who was clearly chosen
their captain, calls Spinks, Lee, and Best to stand with him, and bids
the others and us to stand back against the canes till we are called. So
we do his bidding, and fall back to the growth of canes, whence we could
but dimly make out the mass of the rock for the darkness, and there
waited breathless, listening for the sound of oars. But these Moors, for
a better pretence of secrecy, had muffled their oars, so that we knew
not they were at hand until we heard Haroun's voice speaking low.

"Englishmen, are you there?" asks he.

"Aye, we four," whispers Groves, in reply.

Then we hear them wade into the water and get into the boat with
whispering of Haroun where they are to dispose themselves, and so forth.
After that silence for about ten minutes, and no sound but the ceaseless
rain until we next hear Groves' voice.

"Davis, Negus," whispers he, on which two of our number leave us and go
out to the boat to replace Haroun and that other Moor, who, in the

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