Part 1 out of 7
Captain Blood, by Rafael Sabatini
I. THE MESSENGER
II. KIRKE'S DRAGOONS
III. THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
IV. HUMAN MERCHANDISE
V. ARABELLA BISHOP
VI. PLANS OF ESCAPE
IX. THE REBELS-CONVICT
X. DON DIEGO
XI. FILIAL PIETY
XII. DON PEDRO SANGRE
XIV. LEVASSEUR'S HEROICS
XV. THE RANSOM
XVI. THE TRAP
XVII. THE DUPES
XVIII. THE MILAGROSA
XIX. THE MEETING
XX. THIEF AND PIRATE
XXI. THE SERVICE OF KING JAMES
XXV. THE SERVICE OF KING LOUIS
XXVI. M. DE RIVAROL
XXVIII. THE HONOUR OF M. DE RIVAROL
XXIX. THE SERVICE OF KING WILLIAM
XXX. THE LAST FIGHT OF THE ARABELLA
XXXI. HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR
Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides,
smoked a pipe and tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his
window above Water Lane in the town of Bridgewater.
Sternly disapproving eyes considered him from a window opposite,
but went disregarded. Mr. Blood's attention was divided between his
task and the stream of humanity in the narrow street below; a stream
which poured for the second time that day towards Castle Field,
where earlier in the afternoon Ferguson, the Duke's chaplain, had
preached a sermon containing more treason than divinity.
These straggling, excited groups were mainly composed of men with
green boughs in their hats and the most ludicrous of weapons in
their hands. Some, it is true, shouldered fowling pieces, and here
and there a sword was brandished; but more of them were armed with
clubs, and most of them trailed the mammoth pikes fashioned out of
scythes, as formidable to the eye as they were clumsy to the hand.
There were weavers, brewers, carpenters, smiths, masons, bricklayers,
cobblers, and representatives of every other of the trades of peace
among these improvised men of war. Bridgewater, like Taunton, had
yielded so generously of its manhood to the service of the bastard
Duke that for any to abstain whose age and strength admitted of his
bearing arms was to brand himself a coward or a papist.
Yet Peter Blood, who was not only able to bear arms, but trained and
skilled in their use, who was certainly no coward, and a papist only
when it suited him, tended his geraniums and smoked his pipe on that
warm July evening as indifferently as if nothing were afoot. One
other thing he did. He flung after those war-fevered enthusiasts a
line of Horace - a poet for whose work he had early conceived an
"Quo, quo, scelesti, ruitis?"
And now perhaps you guess why the hot, intrepid blood inherited from
the roving sires of his Somersetshire mother remained cool amidst
all this frenzied fanatical heat of rebellion; why the turbulent
spirit which had forced him once from the sedate academical bonds
his father would have imposed upon him, should now remain quiet in
the very midst of turbulence. You realize how he regarded these
men who were rallying to the banners of liberty - the banners woven
by the virgins of Taunton, the girls from the seminaries of Miss
Blake and Mrs. Musgrove, who - as the ballad runs - had ripped open
their silk petticoats to make colours for King Monmouth's army.
That Latin line, contemptuously flung after them as they clattered
down the cobbled street, reveals his mind. To him they were fools
rushing in wicked frenzy upon their ruin.
You see, he knew too much about this fellow Monmouth and the pretty
brown slut who had borne him, to be deceived by the legend of
legitimacy, on the strength of which this standard of rebellion had
been raised. He had read the absurd proclamation posted at the
Cross at Bridgewater - as it bad been posted also at Taunton and
elsewhere - setting forth that "upon the decease of our Sovereign
Lord Charles the Second, the right of succession to the Crown of
England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, with the dominions and
territories thereunto belonging, did legally descend and devolve
upon the most illustrious and high-born Prince James, Duke of
Monmouth, son and heir apparent to the said King Charles the Second."
It had moved him to laughter, as had the further announcement that
"James Duke of York did first cause the said late King to be
poysoned, and immediately thereupon did usurp and invade the Crown."
He knew not which was the greater lie. For Mr. Blood had spent a
third of his life in the Netherlands, where this same James Scott
- who now proclaimed himself James the Second, by the grace of God,
King, et cetera - first saw the light some six-and-thirty years ago,
and he was acquainted with the story current there of the fellow's
real paternity. Far from being legitimate - by virtue of a
pretended secret marriage between Charles Stuart and Lucy Walter
- it was possible that this Monmouth who now proclaimed himself
King of England was not even the illegitimate child of the late
sovereign. What but ruin and disaster could be the end of this
grotesque pretension? How could it be hoped that England would
ever swallow such a Perkin? And it was on his behalf, to uphold
his fantastic claim, that these West Country clods, led by a few
armigerous Whigs, had been seduced into rebellion!
"Quo, quo, scelesti, ruitis?"
He laughed and sighed in one; but the laugh dominated the sigh, for
Mr. Blood was unsympathetic, as are most self-sufficient men; and he
was very self-sufficient; adversity had taught him so to be. A more
tender-hearted man, possessing his vision and his knowledge, might
have found cause for tears in the contemplation of these ardent,
simple, Nonconformist sheep going forth to the shambles - escorted
to the rallying ground on Castle Field by wives and daughters,
sweethearts and mothers, sustained by the delusion that they were
to take the field in defence of Right, of Liberty, and of Religion.
For he knew, as all Bridgewater knew and had known now for some
hours, that it was Monmouth's intention to deliver battle that same
night. The Duke was to lead a surprise attack upon the Royalist
army under Feversham that was now encamped on Sedgemoor. Mr. Blood
assumed that Lord Feversham would be equally well-informed, and if
in this assumption he was wrong, at least he was justified of it.
He was not to suppose the Royalist commander so indifferently
skilled in the trade he followed.
Mr. Blood knocked the ashes from his pipe, and drew back to close
his window. As he did so, his glance travelling straight across
the street met at last the glance of those hostile eyes that watched
him. There were two pairs, and they belonged to the Misses Pitt,
two amiable, sentimental maiden ladies who yielded to none in
Bridgewater in their worship of the handsome Monmouth.
Mr. Blood smiled and inclined his head, for he was on friendly terms
with these ladies, one of whom, indeed, had been for a little while
his patient. But there was no response to his greeting. Instead,
the eyes gave him back a stare of cold disdain. The smile on his
thin lips grew a little broader, a little less pleasant. He
understood the reason of that hostility, which had been daily growing
in this past week since Monmouth had come to turn the brains of women
of all ages. The Misses Pitt, he apprehended, contemned him that he,
a young and vigorous man, of a military training which might now be
valuable to the Cause, should stand aloof; that he should placidly
smoke his pipe and tend his geraniums on this evening of all
evenings, when men of spirit were rallying to the Protestant
Champion, offering their blood to place him on the throne where he
If Mr. Blood had condescended to debate the matter with these ladies,
he might have urged that having had his fill of wandering and
adventuring, he was now embarked upon the career for which he had
been originally intended and for which his studies had equipped him;
that he was a man of medicine and not of war; a healer, not a slayer.
But they would have answered him, he knew, that in such a cause it
behoved every man who deemed himself a man to take up arms. They
would have pointed out that their own nephew Jeremiah, who was by
trade a sailor, the master of a ship - which by an ill-chance for
that young man had come to anchor at this season in Bridgewater Bay
- had quitted the helm to snatch up a musket in defence of Right.
But Mr. Blood was not of those who argue. As I have said, he was
a self-sufficient man.
He closed the window, drew the curtains, and turned to the pleasant,
candle-lighted room, and the table on which Mrs. Barlow, his
housekeeper, was in the very act of spreading supper. To her,
however, he spoke aloud his thought.
"It's out of favour I am with the vinegary virgins over the way."
He had a pleasant, vibrant voice, whose metallic ring was softened
and muted by the Irish accent which in all his wanderings he had
never lost. It was a voice that could woo seductively and
caressingly, or command in such a way as to compel obedience.
Indeed, the man's whole nature was in that voice of his. For the
rest of him, he was tall and spare, swarthy of tint as a gipsy,
with eyes that were startlingly blue in that dark face and under
those level black brows. In their glance those eyes, flanking a
high-bridged, intrepid nose, were of singular penetration and of
a steady haughtiness that went well with his firm lips. Though
dressed in black as became his calling, yet it was with an
elegance derived from the love of clothes that is peculiar to the
adventurer he had been, rather than to the staid medicus he now
was. His coat was of fine camlet, and it was laced with silver;
there were ruffles of Mechlin at his wrists and a Mechlin cravat
encased his throat. His great black periwig was as sedulously
curled as any at Whitehall.
Seeing him thus, and perceiving his real nature, which was plain
upon him, you might have been tempted to speculate how long such
a man would be content to lie by in this little backwater of the
world into which chance had swept him some six months ago; how
long he would continue to pursue the trade for which he had
qualified himself before he had begun to live. Difficult of belief
though it may be when you know his history, previous and subsequent,
yet it is possible that but for the trick that Fate was about to
play him, he might have continued this peaceful existence, settling
down completely to the life of a doctor in this Somersetshire haven.
It is possible, but not probable.
He was the son of an Irish medicus, by a Somersetshire lady in whose
veins ran the rover blood of the Frobishers, which may account for
a certain wildness that had early manifested itself in his
disposition. This wildness had profoundly alarmed his father, who
for an Irishman was of a singularly peace-loving nature. He had
early resolved that the boy should follow his own honourable
profession, and Peter Blood, being quick to learn and oddly greedy
of knowledge, had satisfied his parent by receiving at the age of
twenty the degree of baccalaureus medicinae at Trinity College,
Dublin. His father survived that satisfaction by three months only.
His mother had then been dead some years already. Thus Peter Blood
came into an inheritance of some few hundred pounds, with which he
had set out to see the world and give for a season a free rein to
that restless spirit by which he was imbued. A set of curious
chances led him to take service with the Dutch, then at war with
France; and a predilection for the sea made him elect that this
service should be upon that element. He had the advantage of a
commission under the famous de Ruyter, and fought in the
Mediterranean engagement in which that great Dutch admiral lost
After the Peace of Nimeguen his movements are obscure. But we know
that he spent two years in a Spanish prison, though we do not know
how he contrived to get there. It may be due to this that upon his
release he took his sword to France, and saw service with the French
in their warring upon the Spanish Netherlands. Having reached, at
last, the age of thirty-two, his appetite for adventure surfeited,
his health having grown indifferent as the result of a neglected
wound, he was suddenly overwhelmed by homesickness. He took ship
from Nantes with intent to cross to Ireland. But the vessel being
driven by stress of weather into Bridgewater Bay, and Blood's health
having grown worse during the voyage, he decided to go ashore there,
additionally urged to it by the fact that it was his mother's native
Thus in January of that year 1685 he had come to Bridgewater,
possessor of a fortune that was approximately the same as that with
which he had originally set out from Dublin eleven years ago.
Because he liked the place, in which his health was rapidly
restored to him, and because he conceived that he had passed
through adventures enough for a man's lifetime, he determined to
settle there, and take up at last the profession of medicine from
which he had, with so little profit, broken away.
That is all his story, or so much of it as matters up to that night,
six months later, when the battle of Sedgemoor was fought.
Deeming the impending action no affair of his, as indeed it was not,
and indifferent to the activity with which Bridgewater was that
night agog, Mr. Blood closed his ears to the sounds of it, and went
early to bed. He was peacefully asleep long before eleven o'clock,
at which hour, as you know, Monmouth rode but with his rebel host
along the Bristol Road, circuitously to avoid the marshland that
lay directly between himself and the Royal Army. You also know
that his numerical advantage - possibly counter-balanced by the
greater steadiness of the regular troops on the other side - and
the advantages he derived from falling by surprise upon an army that
was more or less asleep, were all lost to him by blundering and bad
leadership before ever he was at grips with Feversham.
The armies came into collision in the neighbourhood of two o'clock
in the morning. Mr. Blood slept undisturbed through the distant
boom of cannon. Not until four o'clock, when the sun was rising to
dispel the last wisps of mist over that stricken field of battle,
did he awaken from his tranquil slumbers.
He sat up in bed, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and collected
himself. Blows were thundering upon the door of his house, and a
voice was calling incoherently. This was the noise that had aroused
him. Conceiving that he had to do with some urgent obstetrical
case, he reached for bedgown and slippers, to go below. On the
landing he almost collided with Mrs. Barlow, new-risen and unsightly,
in a state of panic. He quieted her cluckings with a word of
reassurance, and went himself to open.
There in slanting golden light of the new-risen sun stood a
breathless, wild-eyed man and a steaming horse. Smothered in dust
and grime, his clothes in disarray, the left sleeve of his doublet
hanging in rags, this young man opened his lips to speak, yet for
a long moment remained speechless.
In that moment Mr. Blood recognized him for the young shipmaster,
Jeremiah Pitt, the nephew of the maiden ladies opposite, one who
had been drawn by the general enthusiasm into the vortex of that
rebellion. The street was rousing, awakened by the sailor's noisy
advent; doors were opening, and lattices were being unlatched for
the protrusion of anxious, inquisitive heads.
"Take your time, now," said Mr. Blood. "I never knew speed made
But the wild-eyed lad paid no heed to the admonition. He plunged,
headlong, into speech, gasping, breathless.
"It is Lord Gildoy," he panted. "He is sore wounded ... at
Oglethorpe's Farm by the river. I bore him thither ... and ...
and he sent me for you. Come away! Come away!"
He would have clutched the doctor, and haled him forth by force in
bedgown and slippers as he was. But the doctor eluded that too
"To be sure, I'll come," said he. He was distressed. Gildoy had
been a very friendly, generous patron to him since his settling in
these parts. And Mr. Blood was eager enough to do what he now
could to discharge the debt, grieved that the occasion should have
arisen, and in such a manner - for he knew quite well that the rash
young nobleman had been an active agent of the Duke's. "To be sure,
I'll come. But first give me leave to get some clothes and other
things that I may need."
"There's no time to lose."
"Be easy now. I'll lose none. I tell ye again, ye'll go quickest
by going leisurely. Come in ... take a chair..." He threw open the
door of a parlour.
Young Pitt waved aside the invitation.
"I'll wait here. Make haste, in God's name." Mr. Blood went off
to dress and to fetch a case of instruments.
Questions concerning the precise nature of Lord Gildoy's hurt could
wait until they were on their way. Whilst he pulled on his boots,
he gave Mrs. Barlow instructions for the day, which included the
matter of a dinner he was not destined to eat.
When at last he went forth again, Mrs. Barlow clucking after him
like a disgruntled fowl, he found young Pitt smothered in a crowd
of scared, half-dressed townsfolk - mostly women - who had come
hastening for news of how the battle had sped. The news he gave
them was to be read in the lamentations with which they disturbed
the morning air.
At sight of the doctor, dressed and booted, the case of instruments
tucked under his arm, the messenger disengaged himself from those
who pressed about, shook off his weariness and the two tearful aunts
that clung most closely, and seizing the bridle of his horse, he
climbed to the saddle.
"Come along, sir," he cried. "Mount behind me."
Mr. Blood, without wasting words, did as he was bidden. Pitt touched
the horse with his spur. The little crowd gave way, and thus, upon
the crupper of that doubly-laden horse, clinging to the belt of his
companion, Peter Blood set out upon his Odyssey. For this Pitt, in
whom he beheld no more than the messenger of a wounded rebel
gentleman, was indeed the very messenger of Fate.
Oglethorpe's farm stood a mile or so to the south of Bridgewater on
the right bank of the river. It was a straggling Tudor building
showing grey above the ivy that clothed its lower parts. Approaching
it now, through the fragrant orchards amid which it seemed to drowse
in Arcadian peace beside the waters of the Parrett, sparkling in
the morning sunlight, Mr. Blood might have had a difficulty in
believing it part of a world tormented by strife and bloodshed.
On the bridge, as they had been riding out of Bridgewater, they had
met a vanguard of fugitives from the field of battle, weary, broken
men, many of them wounded, all of them terror-stricken, staggering
in speedless haste with the last remnants of their strength into the
shelter which it was their vain illusion the town would afford them.
Eyes glazed with lassitude and fear looked up piteously out of haggard
faces at Mr. Blood and his companion as they rode forth; hoarse
voices cried a warning that merciless pursuit was not far behind.
Undeterred, however, young Pitt rode amain along the dusty road by
which these poor fugitives from that swift rout on Sedgemoor came
flocking in ever-increasing numbers. Presently he swung aside,
and quitting the road took to a pathway that crossed the dewy
meadowlands. Even here they met odd groups of these human derelicts,
who were scattering in all directions, looking fearfully behind them
as they came through the long grass, expecting at every moment to
see the red coats of the dragoons.
But as Pitt's direction was a southward one, bringing them ever
nearer to Feversham's headquarters, they were presently clear of
that human flotsam and jetsam of the battle, and riding through
the peaceful orchards heavy with the ripening fruit that was soon
to make its annual yield of cider.
At last they alighted on the kidney stones of the courtyard, and
Baynes, the master, of the homestead, grave of countenance and
flustered of manner, gave them welcome.
In the spacious, stone-flagged hall, the doctor found Lord Gildoy
- a very tall and dark young gentleman, prominent of chin and nose
- stretched on a cane day-bed under one of the tall mullioned
windows, in the care of Mrs. Baynes and her comely daughter. His
cheeks were leaden-hued, his eyes closed, and from his blue lips
came with each laboured breath a faint, moaning noise.
Mr. Blood stood for a moment silently considering his patient. He
deplored that a youth with such bright hopes in life as Lord Gildoy's
should have risked all, perhaps existence itself, to forward the
ambition of a worthless adventurer. Because he had liked and
honoured this brave lad he paid his case the tribute of a sigh.
Then he knelt to his task, ripped away doublet and underwear to
lay bare his lordship's mangled side, and called for water and linen
and what else he needed for his work.
He was still intent upon it a half-hour later when the dragoons
invaded the homestead. The clatter of hooves and hoarse shouts
that heralded their approach disturbed him not at all. For one
thing, he was not easily disturbed; for another, his task absorbed
him. But his lordship, who had now recovered consciousness,
showed considerable alarm, and the battle-stained Jeremy Pitt sped
to cover in a clothes-press. Baynes was uneasy, and his wife and
daughter trembled. Mr. Blood reassured them.
"Why, what's to fear?" he said. "It's a Christian country, this, and
Christian men do not make war upon the wounded, nor upon those who
harbour them." He still had, you see, illusions about Christians.
He held a glass of cordial, prepared under his directions, to his
lordship's lips. "Give your mind peace, my lord. The worst is done."
And then they came rattling and clanking into the stone-flagged hall
- a round dozen jack-booted, lobster-coated troopers of the Tangiers
Regiment, led by a sturdy, black-browed fellow with a deal of gold
lace about the breast of his coat.
Baynes stood his ground, his attitude half-defiant, whilst his wife
and daughter shrank away in renewed fear. Mr. Blood, at the head
of the day-bed, looked over his shoulder to take stock of the
The officer barked an order, which brought his men to an attentive
halt, then swaggered forward, his gloved hand bearing down the
pummel of his sword, his spurs jingling musically as he moved. He
announced his authority to the yeoman.
"I am Captain Hobart, of Colonel Kirke's dragoons. What rebels do
The yeoman took alarm at that ferocious truculence. It expressed
itself in his trembling voice.
"I... I am no harbourer of rebels, sir. This wounded gentleman...."
"I can see for myself." The Captain stamped forward to the day-bed,
and scowled down upon the grey-faced sufferer.
"No need to ask how he came in this state and by his wounds. A
damned rebel, and that's enough for me." He flung a command at his
dragoons. "Out with him, my lads."
Mr. Blood got between the day-bed and the troopers.
"In the name of humanity, sir!" said he, on a note of anger. "This
is England, not Tangiers. The gentleman is in sore case. He may
not be moved without peril to his life."
Captain Hobart was amused.
"Oh, I am to be tender of the lives of these rebels! Odds blood!
Do you think it's to benefit his health we're taking him? There's
gallows being planted along the road from Weston to Bridgewater,
and he'll serve for one of them as well as another. Colonel Kirke'll
learn these nonconforming oafs something they'll not forget in
"You're hanging men without trial? Faith, then, it's mistaken I am.
We're in Tangiers, after all, it seems, where your regiment belongs."
The Captain considered him with a kindling eye. He looked him over
from the soles of his riding-boots to the crown of his periwig. He
noted the spare, active frame, the arrogant poise of the head, the
air of authority that invested Mr. Blood, and soldier recognized
soldier. The Captain's eyes narrowed. Recognition went further.
"Who the hell may you be?" he exploded."
"My name is Blood, sir - Peter Blood, at your service."
"Aye - aye! Codso! That's the name. You were in French service
once, were you not?"
If Mr. Blood was surprised, he did not betray it.
"Then I remember you - five years ago, or more, you were in Tangiers,"
"That is so. I knew your colonel."
"Faith, you may be renewing the acquaintance." The Captain laughed
unpleasantly. "What brings you here, sir?"
"This wounded gentleman. I was fetched to attend him. I am a
"A doctor - you?" Scorn of that lie - as he conceived it - rang in
the heavy, hectoring voice.
"Medicinae baccalaureus," said Mr. Blood.
"Don't fling your French at me, man," snapped Hobart. "Speak
Mr. Blood's smile annoyed him.
"I am a physician practising my calling in the town of Bridgewater."
The Captain sneered. "Which you reached by way of Lyme Regis in
the following of your bastard Duke."
It was Mr. Blood's turn to sneer. "If your wit were as big as your
voice, my dear, it's the great man you'd be by this."
For a moment the dragoon was speechless, The colour deepened in his
"You may find me great enough to hang you."
"Faith, yes. Ye've the look and the manners of a hangman. But if
you practise your trade on my patient here, you may be putting a
rope round your own neck. He's not the kind you may string up and
no questions asked. He has the right to trial, and the right to
trial by his peers."
"By his peers?"
The Captain was taken aback by these three words, which Mr. Blood
"Sure, now, any but a fool or a savage would have asked his name
before ordering him to the gallows. The gentleman is my Lord Gildoy."
And then his lordship spoke for himself, in a weak voice.
"I make no concealment of my association with the Duke of Monmouth.
I'll take the consequences. But, if you please, I'll take them after
trial - by my peers, as the doctor has said."
The feeble voice ceased, and was followed by a moment's silence. As
is common in many blustering men, there was a deal of timidity deep
down in Hobart. The announcement of his lordship's rank had touched
those depths. A servile upstart, he stood in awe of titles. And he
stood in awe of his colonel. Percy Kirke was not lenient with
By a gesture he checked his men. He must consider. Mr. Blood,
observing his pause, added further matter for his consideration.
"Ye'll be remembering, Captain, that Lord Gildoy will have friends
and relatives on the Tory side, who'll have something to say to
Colonel Kirke if his lordship should be handled like a common felon.
You'll go warily, Captain, or, as I've said, it's a halter for your
neck ye'll be weaving this morning."
Captain Hobart swept the warning aside with a bluster of contempt,
but he acted upon it none the less. "Take up the day-bed," said he,
"and convey him on that to Bridgewater. Lodge him in the gaol until
I take order about him."
"He may not survive the journey," Blood remonstrated. "He's in no
case to be moved."
"So much the worse for him. My affair is to round up rebels." He
confirmed his order by a gesture. Two of his men took up the day-bed,
and swung to depart with it.
Gildoy made a feeble effort to put forth a hand towards Mr. Blood.
"Sir," he said, "you leave me in your debt. If I live I shall study
how to discharge it."
Mr. Blood bowed for answer; then to the men: "Bear him steadily,"
he commanded. "His life depends on it."
As his lordship was carried out, the Captain became brisk. He turned
upon the yeoman.
"What other cursed rebels do you harbour?"
"None other, sir. His lordship...."
"We've dealt with his lordship for the present. We'll deal with
you in a moment when we've searched your house. And, by God, if
you've lied to me...." He broke off, snarling, to give an order.
Four of his dragoons went out. In a moment they were heard moving
noisily in the adjacent room. Meanwhile, the Captain was questing
about the hall, sounding the wainscoting with the butt of a pistol.
Mr. Blood saw no profit to himself in lingering.
"By your leave, it's a very good day I'll be wishing you," said he.
"By my leave, you'll remain awhile," the Captain ordered him.
Mr. Blood shrugged, and sat down. "You're tiresome," he said." I
wonder your colonel hasn't discovered it yet."
But the Captain did not heed him. He was stooping to pick up a
soiled and dusty hat in which there was pinned a little bunch of
oak leaves. It had been lying near the clothes-press in which the
unfortunate Pitt had taken refuge. The Captain smiled malevolently.
His eyes raked the room, resting first sardonically on the yeoman,
then on the two women in the background, and finally on Mr. Blood,
who sat with one leg thrown over the other in an attitude of
indifference that was far from reflecting his mind.
Then the Captain stepped to the press, and pulled open one of the
wings of its massive oaken door. He took the huddled inmate by
the collar of his doublet, and lugged him out into the open.
"And who the devil's this?" quoth he. "Another nobleman?"
Mr. Blood had a vision of those gallows of which Captain Hobart had
spoken, and of this unfortunate young shipmaster going to adorn one
of them, strung up without trial, in the place of the other victim
of whom the Captain had been cheated. On the spot he invented not
only a title but a whole family for the young rebel.
"Faith, ye've said it, Captain. This is Viscount Pitt, first cousin
to Sir Thomas Vernon, who's married to that slut Moll Kirke, sister
to your own colonel, and sometime lady in waiting upon King James's
Both the Captain and his prisoner gasped. But whereas thereafter
young Pitt discreetly held his peace, the Captain rapped out a nasty
oath. He considered his prisoner again.
"He's lying, is he not?" he demanded, seizing the lad by the shoulder,
and glaring into his face. "He's rallying rue, by God!"
"If ye believe that," said Blood, "hang him, and see what happens to
The dragoon glared at the doctor and then at his prisoner. "Pah!"
He thrust the lad into the hands of his men. "Fetch him along to
Bridgewater. And make fast that fellow also," he pointed to Baynes.
"We'll show him what it means to harbour and comfort rebels."
There was a moment of confusion. Baynes struggled in the grip of
the troopers, protesting vehemently. The terrified women screamed
until silenced by a greater terror. The Captain strode across to
them. He took the girl by the shoulders. She was a pretty,
golden-headed creature, with soft blue eyes that looked up
entreatingly, piteously into the face of the dragoon. He leered
upon her, his eyes aglow, took her chin in his hand, and set her
shuddering by his brutal kiss.
"It's an earnest," he said, smiling grimly. "Let that quiet you,
little rebel, till I've done with these rogues."
And he swung away again, leaving her faint and trembling in the
arms of her anguished mother. His men stood, grinning, awaiting
orders, the two prisoners now fast pinioned.
"Take them away. Let Cornet Drake have charge of them." His
smouldering eye again sought the cowering girl. "I'll stay awhile
- to search out this place. There may be other rebels hidden here."
As an afterthought, he added: "And take this fellow with you." He
pointed to Mr. Blood. "Bestir!"
Mr. Blood started out of his musings. He had been considering that
in his case of instruments there was a lancet with which he might
perform on Captain Hobart a beneficial operation. Beneficial, that
is, to humanity. In any case, the dragoon was obviously plethoric
and would be the better for a blood-letting. The difficulty lay in
making the opportunity. He was beginning to wonder if he could
lure the Captain aside with some tale of hidden treasure, when this
untimely interruption set a term to that interesting speculation.
He sought to temporize.
"Faith it will suit me very well," said he. "For Bridgewater is my
destination, and but that ye detained me I'd have been on my way
"Your destination there will he the gaol."
"Ah, bah! Ye're surely joking!"
"There's a gallows for you if you prefer it. It's merely a question
of now or later."
Rude hands seized Mr. Blood, and that precious lancet was in the
case on the table out of reach. He twisted out of the grip of the
dragoons, for he was strong and agile, but they dosed with him again
immediately, and bore him down. Pinning him to the round, they tied
his wrists behind his back, then roughly pulled him to his feet
"Take him away," said Hobart shortly, and turned to issue his orders
to the other waiting troopers. "Go search the house, from attic to
cellar; then report to me here."
The soldiers trailed out by the door leading to the interior. Mr.
Blood was thrust by his guards into the courtyard, where Pitt and
Baynes already waited. From the threshold of the hall, he looked
back at Captain Hobart, and his sapphire eyes were blazing. On his
lips trembled a threat of what he would do to Hobart if he should
happen to survive this business. Betimes he remembered that to
utter it were probably to extinguish his chance of living to execute
it. For to-day the King's men were masters in the West, and the
West was regarded as enemy country, to be subjected to the worst
horror of war by the victorious side. Here a captain of horse was
for the moment lord of life and death.
Under the apple-trees in the orchard Mr. Blood and his companions
in misfortune were made fast each to a trooper's stirrup leather.
Then at the sharp order of the cornet, the little troop started
for Bridgewater. As they set out there was the fullest confirmation
of Mr. Blood's hideous assumption that to the dragoons this was a
conquered enemy country. There were sounds of rending timbers,
of furniture smashed and overthrown, the shouts and laughter of
brutal men, to announce that this hunt for rebels was no more than
a pretext for pillage and destruction. Finally above all other
sounds came the piercing screams of a woman in acutest agony.
Baynes checked in his stride, and swung round writhing, his face
ashen. As a consequence he was jerked from his feet by the rope
that attached him to the stirrup leather, and he was dragged
helplessly a yard or two before the trooper reined in, cursing him
foully, and striking him with the flat of his sword.
It came to Mr. Blood, as he trudged forward under the laden
apple-trees on that fragrant, delicious July morning, that man - as
he had long suspected - was the vilest work of God, and that only
a fool would set himself up as a healer of a species that was best
THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
It was not until two months later - on the 19th of September, if
you must have the actual date - that Peter Blood was brought to
trial, upon a charge of high treason. We know that he was not
guilty of this; but we need not doubt that he was quite capable
of it by the time he was indicted. Those two months of inhuman,
unspeakable imprisonment had moved his mind to a cold and deadly
hatred of King James and his representatives. It says something
for his fortitude that in all the circumstances he should still
have had a mind at all. Yet, terrible as was the position of this
entirely innocent man, he had cause for thankfulness on two counts.
The first of these was that he should have been brought to trial at
all; the second, that his trial took place on the date named, and
not a day earlier. In the very delay which exacerbated him lay -
although he did not realize it - his only chance of avoiding the
Easily, but for the favour of Fortune, he might have been one of
those haled, on the morrow of the battle, more or less haphazard
from the overflowing gaol at Bridgewater to be summarily hanged in
the market-place by the bloodthirsty Colonel Kirke. There was about
the Colonel of the Tangiers Regiment a deadly despatch which might
have disposed in like fashion of all those prisoners, numerous as
they were, but for the vigorous intervention of Bishop Mews, which
put an end to the drumhead courts-martial.
Even so, in that first week after Sedgemoor, Kirke and Feversham
contrived between them to put to death over a hundred men after a
trial so summary as to be no trial at all. They required human
freights for the gibbets with which they were planting the
countryside, and they little cared how they procured them or what
innocent lives they took. What, after all, was the life of a clod?
The executioners were kept busy with rope and chopper and cauldrons
of pitch. I spare you the details of that nauseating picture. It
is, after all, with the fate of Peter Blood that we are concerned
rather than with that of the Monmouth rebels.
He survived to be included in one of those melancholy droves of
prisoners who, chained in pairs, were marched from Bridgewater to
Taunton. Those who were too sorely wounded to march were conveyed
in carts, into which they were brutally crowded, their wounds
undressed and festering. Many were fortunate enough to die upon
the way. When Blood insisted upon his right to exercise his art so
as to relieve some of this suffering, he was accounted importunate
and threatened with a flogging. If he had one regret now it was
that he had not been out with Monmouth. That, of course, was
illogical; but you can hardly expect logic from a man in his position.
His chain companion on that dreadful march was the same Jeremy Pitt
who had been the agent of his present misfortunes. The young
shipmaster had remained his close companion after their common arrest.
Hence, fortuitously, had they been chained together in the crowded
prison, where they were almost suffocated by the heat and the stench
during those days of July, August, and September.
Scraps of news filtered into the gaol from the outside world. Some
may have been deliberately allowed to penetrate. Of these was the
tale of Monmouth's execution. It created profoundest dismay amongst
those men who were suffering for the Duke and for the religious cause
he had professed to champion. Many refused utterly to believe it.
A wild story began to circulate that a man resembling Monmouth had
offered himself up in the Duke's stead, and that Monmouth survived
to come again in glory to deliver Zion and make war upon Babylon.
Mr. Blood heard that tale with the same indifference with which he
had received the news of Monmouth's death. But one shameful thing
he heard in connection with this which left him not quite so unmoved,
and served to nourish the contempt he was forming for King James.
His Majesty had consented to see Monmouth. To have done so unless
he intended to pardon him was a thing execrable and damnable beyond
belief; for the only other object in granting that interview could
be the evilly mean satisfaction of spurning the abject penitence of
his unfortunate nephew.
Later they heard that Lord Grey, who after the Duke - indeed,
perhaps, before him - was the main leader of the rebellion, had
purchased his own pardon for forty thousand pounds. Peter Blood
found this of a piece with the rest. His contempt for King James
blazed out at last.
"Why, here's a filthy mean creature to sit on a throne. If I had
known as much of him before as I know to-day, I don't doubt I should
have given cause to be where I am now." And then on a sudden thought:
"And where will Lord Gildoy be, do you suppose?" he asked.
Young Pitt, whom he addressed, turned towards him a face from which
the ruddy tan of the sea had faded almost completely during those
months of captivity. His grey eyes were round and questioning.
Blood answered him.
"Sure, now, we've never seen his lordship since that day at
Oglethorpe's. And where are the other gentry that were taken? -
the real leaders of this plaguey rebellion. Grey's case explains
their absence, I think. They are wealthy men that can ransom
themselves. Here awaiting the gallows are none but the unfortunates
who followed; those who had the honour to lead them go free. It's
a curious and instructive reversal of the usual way of these things.
Faith, it's an uncertain world entirely!"
He laughed, and settled down into that spirit of scorn, wrapped in
which he stepped later into the great hall of Taunton Castle to take
his trial. With him went Pitt and the yeoman Baynes. The three of
them were to be tried together, and their case was to open the
proceedings of that ghastly day.
The hall, even to the galleries - thronged with spectators, most of
whom were ladies - was hung in scarlet; a pleasant conceit, this, of
the Lord Chief Justice's, who naturally enough preferred the colour
that should reflect his own bloody mind.
At the upper end, on a raised dais, sat the Lords Commissioners, the
five judges in their scarlet robes and heavy dark periwigs, Baron
Jeffreys of Wem enthroned in the middle place.
The prisoners filed in under guard. The crier called for silence
under pain of imprisonment, and as the hum of voices gradually became
hushed, Mr. Blood considered with interest the twelve good men and
true that composed the jury. Neither good nor true did they look.
They were scared, uneasy, and hangdog as any set of thieves caught
with their hands in the pockets of their neighbours. They were
twelve shaken men, each of whom stood between the sword of the Lord
Chief Justice's recent bloodthirsty charge and the wall of his own
From them Mr. Blood's calm, deliberate glance passed on to consider
the Lords Commissioners, and particularly the presiding Judge, that
Lord Jeffreys, whose terrible fame had come ahead of him from
He beheld a tall, slight man on the young side of forty, with an
oval face that was delicately beautiful. There were dark stains of
suffering or sleeplessness under the low-lidded eyes, heightening
their brilliance and their gentle melancholy. The face was very
pale, save for the vivid colour of the full lips and the hectic
flush on the rather high but inconspicuous cheek-bones. It was
something in those lips that marred the perfection of that
countenance; a fault, elusive but undeniable, lurked there to belie
the fine sensitiveness of those nostrils, the tenderness of those
dark, liquid eyes and the noble calm of that pale brow.
The physician in Mr. Blood regarded the man with peculiar interest
knowing as he did the agonizing malady from which his lordship
suffered, and the amazingly irregular, debauched life that he led
in spite of it - perhaps because of it.
"Peter Blood, hold up your hand!"
Abruptly he was recalled to his position by the harsh voice of the
clerk of arraigns. His obedience was mechanical, and the clerk
droned out the wordy indictment which pronounced Peter Blood a
false traitor against the Most Illustrious and Most Excellent Prince,
James the Second, by the grace of God, of England, Scotland, France,
and Ireland King, his supreme and natural lord. It informed him
that, having no fear of God in his heart, but being moved and
seduced by the instigation of the Devil, he had failed in the love
and true and due natural obedience towards his said lord the King,
and had moved to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the kingdom
and to stir up war and rebellion to depose his said lord the King
from the title, honour, and the regal name of the imperial crown -
and much more of the same kind, at the end of all of which he was
invited to say whether he was guilty or not guilty. He answered
more than was asked.
"It's entirely innocent I am."
A small, sharp-faced man at a table before and to the right of him
bounced up. It was Mr. Pollexfen, the Judge-Advocate.
"Are you guilty or not guilty?" snapped this peppery gentleman.
"You must take the words."
"Words, is it?" said Peter Blood. "Oh - not guilty." And he went
on, addressing himself to the bench. "On this same subject of words,
may it please your lordships, I am guilty of nothing to justify any
of those words I have heard used to describe me, unless it be of a
want of patience at having been closely confined for two months and
longer in a foetid gaol with great peril to my health and even life."
Being started, he would have added a deal more; but at this point
the Lord Chief Justice interposed in a gentle, rather plaintive
"Look you, sir: because we must observe the common and usual methods
of trial, I must interrupt you now. You are no doubt ignorant of
the forms of law?"
"Not only ignorant, my lord, but hitherto most happy in that
ignorance. I could gladly have forgone this acquaintance with them."
A pale smile momentarily lightened the wistful countenance.
"I believe you. You shall be fully heard when you come to your
defence. But anything you say now is altogether irregular and
Enheartened by that apparent sympathy and consideration, Mr. Blood
answered thereafter, as was required of him, that he would be tried
by God and his country. Whereupon, having prayed to God to send him
a good deliverance, the clerk called upon Andrew Baynes to hold up
his hand and plead.
From Baynes, who pleaded not guilty, the clerk passed on to Pitt,
who boldly owned his guilt. The Lord Chief Justice stirred at that.
"Come; that's better," quoth he, and his four scarlet brethren
nodded. "If all were as obstinate as his two fellow-rebels, there
would never be an end."
After that ominous interpolation, delivered with an inhuman iciness
that sent a shiver through the court, Mr. Pollexfen got to his feet.
With great prolixity he stated the general case against the three
men, and the particular case against Peter Blood, whose indictment
was to be taken first.
The only witness called for the King was Captain Hobart. He
testified briskly to the manner in which he had found and taken the
three prisoners, together with Lord Gildoy. Upon the orders of his
colonel he would have hanged Pitt out of hand, but was restrained
by the lies of the prisoner Blood, who led him to believe that Pitt
was a peer of the realm and a person of consideration.
As the Captain's evidence concluded, Lord Jeffreys looked across at
"Will the prisoner Blood ask the witness any questions?"
"None, my lord. He has correctly related what occurred."
"I am glad to have your admission of that without any of the
prevarications that are usual in your kind. And I will say this,
that here prevarication would avail you little. For we always have
the truth in the end. Be sure of that."
Baynes and Pitt similarly admitted the accuracy of the Captain's
evidence, whereupon the scarlet figure of the Lord Chief Justice
heaved a sigh of relief.
"This being so, let us get on, in God's name; for we have much to
do." There was now no trace of gentleness in his voice. It was
brisk and rasping, and the lips through which it passed were curved
in scorn. "I take it, Mr. Pollexfen, that the wicked treason of
these three rogues being established - indeed, admitted by them
- there is no more to be said."
Peter Blood's voice rang out crisply, on a note that almost seemed
to contain laughter.
"May it please your lordship, but there's a deal more to be said."
His lordship looked at him, first in blank amazement at his audacity,
then gradually with an expression of dull anger. The scarlet lips
fell into unpleasant, cruel lines that transfigured the whole
"How now, rogue? Would you waste our time with idle subterfuge?"
"I would have your lordship and the gentlemen of the jury hear me
on my defence, as your lordship promised that I should be heard."
"Why, so you shall, villain; so you shall." His lordship's voice
was harsh as a file. He writhed as he spoke, and for an instant
his features were distorted. A delicate dead-white hand, on which
the veins showed blue, brought forth a handkerchief with which he
dabbed his lips and then his brow. Observing him with his
physician's eye, Peter Blood judged him a prey to the pain of the
disease that was destroying him. "So you shall. But after the
admission made, what defence remains?"
"You shall judge, my lord."
"That is the purpose for which I sit here."
"And so shall you, gentlemen." Blood looked from judge to jury.
The latter shifted uncomfortably under the confident flash of his
blue eyes. Lord Jeffreys's bullying charge had whipped the spirit
out of them. Had they, themselves, been prisoners accused of
treason, he could not have arraigned them more ferociously.
Peter Blood stood boldly forward, erect, self-possessed, and
saturnine. He was freshly shaven, and his periwig, if out of curl,
was at least carefully combed and dressed.
"Captain Hobart has testified to what he knows - that he found me
at Oglethorpe's Farm on the Monday morning after the battle at
Weston. But he has not told you what I did there."
Again the Judge broke in. "Why, what should you have been doing
there in the company of rebels, two of whom - Lord Gildoy and your
fellow there - have already admitted their guilt?"
"That is what I beg leave to tell your lordship."
"I pray you do, and in God's name be brief, man. For if I am to be
troubled with the say of all you traitor dogs, I may sit here until
the Spring Assizes."
"I was there, my lord, in my quality as a physician, to dress Lord
"What's this? Do you tell us that you are a physician?"
"A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin."
"Good God!" cried Lord Jeffreys, his voice suddenly swelling, his
eyes upon the jury. "What an impudent rogue is this! You heard the
witness say that he had known him in Tangiers some years ago, and
that he was then an officer in the French service. You heard the
prisoner admit that the witness had spoken the truth?"
"Why, so he had. Yet what I am telling you is also true, so it is.
For some years I was a soldier; but before that I was a physician,
and I have been one again since January last, established in
Bridgewater, as I can bring a hundred witnesses to prove."
"There's not the need to waste our time with that. I will convict
you out of your own rascally mouth. I will ask you only this: How
came you, who represent yourself as a physician peacefully following
your calling in the town of Bridgewater, to be with the army of the
Duke of Monmouth?"
"I was never with that army. No witness has sworn to that, and I
dare swear that no witness will. I never was attracted to the late
rebellion. I regarded the adventure as a wicked madness. I take
leave to ask your lordship" (his brogue became more marked than ever)
"what should I, who was born and bred a papist, be doing in the army
of the Protestant Champion?"
"A papist thou?" The judge gloomed on him a moment. "Art more like
a snivelling, canting Jack Presbyter. I tell you, man, I can smell
a Presbyterian forty miles."
"Then I'll take leave to marvel that with so keen a nose your
lordship can't smell a papist at four paces."
There was a ripple of laughter in the galleries, instantly quelled
by the fierce glare of the Judge and the voice of the crier.
Lord Jeffreys leaned farther forward upon his desk. He raised that
delicate white hand, still clutching its handkerchief, and sprouting
from a froth of lace.
"We'll leave your religion out of account for the moment, friend,"
said he. "But mark what I say to you." With a minatory forefinger
he beat the time of his words. "Know, friend, that there is no
religion a man can pretend to can give a countenance to lying. Thou
hast a precious immortal soul, and there is nothing in the world
equal to it in value. Consider that the great God of Heaven and
Earth, before Whose tribunal thou and we and all persons are to
stand at the last day, will take vengeance on thee for every
falsehood, and justly strike thee into eternal flames, make thee
drop into the bottomless pit of fire and brimstone, if thou offer
to deviate the least from the truth and nothing but the truth. For
I tell thee God is not mocked. On that I charge you to answer
truthfully. How came you to be taken with these rebels?"
Peter Blood gaped at him a moment in consternation. The man was
incredible, unreal, fantastic, a nightmare judge. Then he collected
himself to answer.
"I was summoned that morning to succour Lord Gildoy, and I conceived
it to be the duty imposed upon me by my calling to answer that
"Did you so?" The Judge, terrible now of aspect - his face white,
his twisted lips red as the blood for which they thirsted - glared
upon him in evil mockery. Then he controlled himself as if by an
effort. He sighed. He resumed his earlier gentle plaintiveness.
"Lord! How you waste our time. But I'll have patience with you.
Who summoned you?"
"Master Pitt there, as he will testify."
"Oh! Master Pitt will testify - he that is himself a traitor
self-confessed. Is that your witness?"
"There is also Master Baynes here, who can answer to it."
"Good Master Baynes will have to answer for himself; and I doubt not
he'll be greatly exercised to save his own neck from a halter.
Come, come, sir; are these your only witnesses?"
"I could bring others from Bridgewater, who saw me set out that
morning upon the crupper of Master Pitt's horse."
His lordship smiled. "It will not be necessary. For, mark me, I
do not intend to waste more time on you. Answer me only this: When
Master Pitt, as you pretend, came to summon you, did you know that
he had been, as you have heard him confess, of Monmouth's following?"
"I did, My lord."
"You did! Ha!" His lordship looked at the cringing jury and uttered
a short, stabbing laugh. "Yet in spite of that you went with him?"
"To succour a wounded man, as was my sacred duty."
"Thy sacred duty, sayest thou?" Fury blazed out of him again. "Good
God! What a generation of vipers do we live in! Thy sacred duty,
rogue, is to thy King and to God. But let it pass. Did he tell you
whom it was that you were desired to succour?"
"Lord Gildoy - yes."
"And you knew that Lord Gildoy had been wounded in the battle, and
on what side he fought?"
"And yet, being, as you would have us believe, a true and loyal
subject of our Lord the King, you went to succour him?"
Peter Blood lost patience for a moment. "My business, my lord, was
with his wounds, not with his politics."
A murmur from the galleries and even from the jury approved him.
It served only to drive his terrible judge into a deeper fury.
"Jesus God! Was there ever such an impudent villain in the world
as thou?" He swung, white-faced, to the jury. "I hope, gentlemen
of the jury, you take notice of the horrible carriage of this traitor
rogue, and withal you cannot but observe the spirit of this sort of
people, what a villainous and devilish one it is. Out of his own
mouth he has said enough to hang him a dozen times. Yet is there
more. Answer me this, sir: When you cozened Captain Hobart with
your lies concerning the station of this other traitor Pitt, what
was your business then?"
"To save him from being hanged without trial, as was threatened."
"What concern was it of yours whether or how the wretch was hanged?"
"Justice is the concern of every loyal subject, for an injustice
committed by one who holds the King's commission is in some sense
a dishonour to the King's majesty."
It was a shrewd, sharp thrust aimed at the jury, and it reveals,
I think, the alertness of the man's mind, his self-possession ever
steadiest in moments of dire peril. With any other jury it must
have made the impression that he hoped to make. It may even have
made its impression upon these poor pusillanimous sheep. But the
dread judge was there to efface it.
He gasped aloud, then flung himself violently forward.
"Lord of Heaven!" he stormed. "Was there ever such a canting,
impudent rascal? But I have done with you. I see thee, villain, I
see thee already with a halter round thy neck."
Having spoken so, gloatingly, evilly, he sank back again, and
composed himself. It was as if a curtain fell. All emotion passed
again from his pale face. Back to invest it again came that gentle
melancholy. Speaking after a moment's pause, his voice was soft,
almost tender, yet every word of it carried sharply through that
"If I know my own heart it is not in my nature to desire the hurt
of anybody, much less to delight in his eternal perdition. It is
out of compassion for you that I have used all these words - because
I would have you have some regard for your immortal soul, and not
ensure its damnation by obdurately persisting in falsehood and
prevarication. But I see that all the pains in the world, and all
compassion and charity are lost upon you, and therefore I will say
no more to you." He turned again to the jury that countenance of
wistful beauty. "Gentlemen, I must tell you for law, of which we
are the judges, and not you, that if any person be in actual
rebellion against the King, and another person - who really and
actually was not in rebellion - does knowingly receive, harbour,
comfort, or succour him, such a person is as much a traitor as he
who indeed bore arms. We are bound by our oaths and consciences to
declare to you what is law; and you are bound by your oaths and your
consciences to deliver and to declare to us by your verdict the
truth of the facts."
Upon that he proceeded to his summing-up, showing how Baynes and
Blood were both guilty of treason, the first for having harboured
a traitor, the second for having succoured that traitor by dressing
his wounds. He interlarded his address by sycophantic allusions
to his natural lord and lawful sovereign, the King, whom God had
set over them, and with vituperations of Nonconformity and of
Monmouth, of whom - in his own words - he dared boldly affirm that
the meanest subject within the kingdom that was of legitimate birth
had a better title to the crown. "Jesus God! That ever we should
have such a generation of vipers among us," he burst out in
rhetorical frenzy. And then he sank back as if exhausted by the
violence he had used. A moment he was still, dabbing his lips again;
then he moved uneasily; once more his features were twisted by pain,
and in a few snarling, almost incoherent words he dismissed the jury
to consider the verdict.
Peter Blood had listened to the intemperate, the blasphemous, and
almost obscene invective of that tirade with a detachment that
afterwards, in retrospect, surprised him. He was so amazed by the
man, by the reactions taking place in him between mind and body,
and by his methods of bullying and coercing the jury into bloodshed,
that he almost forgot that his own life was at stake.
The absence of that dazed jury was a brief one. The verdict found
the three prisoners guilty. Peter Blood looked round the
scarlet-hung court. For an instant that foam of white faces seemed
to heave before him. Then he was himself again, and a voice was
asking him what he had to say for himself, why sentence of death
should not be passed upon him, being convicted of high treason.
He laughed, and his laugh jarred uncannily upon the deathly stillness
of the court. It was all so grotesque, such a mockery of justice
administered by that wistful-eyed jack-pudding in scarlet, who was
himself a mockery - the venal instrument of a brutally spiteful and
vindictive king. His laughter shocked the austerity of that same
"Do you laugh, sirrah, with the rope about your neck, upon the very
threshold of that eternity you are so suddenly to enter into?"
And then Blood took his revenge.
"Faith, it's in better case I am for mirth than your lordship. For
I have this to say before you deliver judgment. Your lordship sees
me - an innocent man whose only offence is that I practised charity
- with a halter round my neck. Your lordship, being the justiciar,
speaks with knowledge of what is to come to me. I, being a physician,
may speak with knowledge of what is to come to your lordship. And I
tell you that I would not now change places with you - that I would
not exchange this halter that you fling about my neck for the stone
that you carry in your body. The death to which you may doom me is
a light pleasantry by contrast with the death to which your lordship
has been doomed by that Great Judge with whose name your lordship
makes so free."
The Lord Chief Justice sat stiffly upright, his face ashen, his lips
twitching, and whilst you might have counted ten there was no sound
in that paralyzed court after Peter Blood had finished speaking. All
those who knew Lord Jeffreys regarded this as the lull before the
storm, and braced themselves for the explosion. But none came.
Slowly, faintly, the colour crept back into that ashen face. The
scarlet figure lost its rigidity, and bent forward. His lordship
began to speak. In a muted voice and briefly - much more briefly
than his wont on such occasions and in a manner entirely mechanical,
the manner of a man whose thoughts are elsewhere while his lips are
speaking - he delivered sentence of death in the prescribed form,
and without the least allusion to what Peter Blood had said. Having
delivered it, he sank back exhausted, his eyes half-closed, his brow
agleam with sweat.
The prisoners filed out.
Mr. Pollexfen - a Whig at heart despite the position of
Judge-Advocate which he occupied - was overheard by one of the
jurors to mutter in the ear of a brother counsel:
"On my soul, that swarthy rascal has given his lordship a scare.
It's a pity he must hang. For a man who can frighten Jeffreys
should go far."
Mr. Pollexfen was at one and the same time right and wrong - a
condition much more common than is generally supposed.
He was right in his indifferently expressed thought that a man whose
mien and words could daunt such a lord of terror as Jeffreys, should
by the dominance of his nature be able to fashion himself a
considerable destiny. He was wrong - though justifiably so - in his
assumption that Peter Blood must hang.
I have said that the tribulations with which he was visited as a
result of his errand of mercy to Oglethorpe's Farm contained -
although as yet he did not perceive it, perhaps - two sources of
thankfulness: one that he was tried at all; the other that his trial
took place on the 19th of September. Until the 18th, the sentences
passed by the court of the Lords Commissioners had been carried out
literally and expeditiously. But on the morning of the 19th there
arrived at Taunton a courier from Lord Sunderland, the Secretary of
State, with a letter for Lord Jeffreys wherein he was informed that
His Majesty had been graciously pleased to command that eleven
hundred rebels should be furnished for transportation to some of His
Majesty's southern plantations, Jamaica, Barbados, or any of the
You are not to suppose that this command was dictated by any sense
of mercy. Lord Churchill was no more than just when he spoke of the
King's heart as being as insensible as marble. It had been realized
that in these wholesale hangings there was taking place a reckless
waste of valuable material. Slaves were urgently required in the
plantations, and a healthy, vigorous man could be reckoned worth at
least from ten to fifteen pounds. Then, there were at court many
gentlemen who had some claim or other upon His Majesty's bounty.
Here was a cheap and ready way to discharge these claims. From
amongst the convicted rebels a certain number might be set aside to
be bestowed upon those gentlemen, so that they might dispose of them
to their own profit.
My Lord Sunderland's letter gives precise details of the royal
munificence in human flesh. A thousand prisoners were to be
distributed among some eight courtiers and others, whilst a
postscriptum to his lordship's letter asked for a further hundred
to be held at the disposal of the Queen. These prisoners were to
be transported at once to His Majesty's southern plantations, and
to be kept there for the space of ten years before being restored
to liberty, the parties to whom they were assigned entering into
security to see that transportation was immediately effected.
We know from Lord Jeffreys's secretary how the Chief Justice
inveighed that night in drunken frenzy against this misplaced
clemency to which His Majesty had been persuaded. We know how he
attempted by letter to induce the King to reconsider his decision.
But James adhered to it. It was - apart from the indirect profit
he derived from it - a clemency full worthy of him. He knew that
to spare lives in this fashion was to convert them into living
deaths. Many must succumb in torment to the horrors of West
Indian slavery, and so be the envy of their surviving companions.
Thus it happened that Peter Blood, and with him Jeremy Pitt and
Andrew Baynes, instead of being hanged, drawn, and quartered as
their sentences directed, were conveyed to Bristol and there shipped
with some fifty others aboard the Jamaica Merchant. From close
confinement under hatches, ill-nourishment and foul water, a
sickness broke out amongst them, of which eleven died. Amongst
these was the unfortunate yeoman from Oglethorpe's Farm, brutally
torn from his quiet homestead amid the fragrant cider orchards
for no other sin but that he had practised mercy.
The mortality might have been higher than it was but for Peter Blood.
At first the master of the Jamaica Merchant had answered with oaths
and threats the doctor's expostulations against permitting men to
perish in this fashion, and his insistence that he should be made
free of the medicine chest and given leave to minister to the sick.
But presently Captain Gardner came to see that he might be brought
to task for these too heavy losses of human merchandise and because
of this he was belatedly glad to avail himself of the skill of Peter
Blood. The doctor went to work zealously and zestfully, and wrought
so ably that, by his ministrations and by improving the condition of
his fellow-captives, he checked the spread of the disease.
Towards the middle of December the Jamaica Merchant dropped anchor
in Carlisle Bay, and put ashore the forty-two surviving
If these unfortunates had imagined - as many of them appear to have
done - that they were coming into some wild, savage country, the
prospect, of which they had a glimpse before they were hustled over
the ship's side into the waiting boats, was enough to correct the
impression. They beheld a town of sufficiently imposing proportions
composed of houses built upon European notions of architecture, but
without any of the huddle usual in European cities. The spire of
a church rose dominantly above the red roofs, a fort guarded the
entrance of the wide harbour, with guns thrusting their muzzles
between the crenels, and the wide facade of Government House
revealed itself dominantly placed on a gentle hill above the town.
This hill was vividly green as is an English hill in April, and the
day was such a day as April gives to England, the season of heavy
rains being newly ended.
On a wide cobbled space on the sea front they found a guard of
red-coated militia drawn up to receive them, and a crowd - attracted
by their arrival - which in dress and manner differed little from a
crowd in a seaport at home save that it contained fewer women and a
great number of negroes.
To inspect them, drawn up there on the mole, came Governor Steed,
a short, stout, red-faced gentleman, in blue taffetas burdened by
a prodigious amount of gold lace, who limped a little and leaned
heavily upon a stout ebony cane. After him, in the uniform of a
colonel of the Barbados Militia, rolled a tall, corpulent man who
towered head and shoulders above the Governor, with malevolence
plainly written on his enormous yellowish countenance. At his side,
and contrasting oddly with his grossness, moving with an easy
stripling grace, came a slight young lady in a modish riding-gown.
The broad brim of a grey hat with scarlet sweep of ostrich plume
shaded an oval face upon which the climate of the Tropic of Cancer
had made no impression, so delicately fair was its complexion.
Ringlets of red-brown hair hung to her shoulders. Frankness looked
out from her hazel eyes which were set wide; commiseration repressed
now the mischievousness that normally inhabited her fresh young
Peter Blood caught himself staring in a sort of amazement at that
piquant face, which seemed here so out of place, and finding his
stare returned, he shifted uncomfortably. He grew conscious of the
sorry figure that he cut. Unwashed, with rank and matted hair and
a disfiguring black beard upon his face, and the erstwhile splendid
suit of black camlet in which he had been taken prisoner now reduced
to rags that would have disgraced a scarecrow, he was in no case for
inspection by such dainty eyes as these. Nevertheless, they
continued to inspect him with round-eyed, almost childlike wonder
and pity. Their owner put forth a hand to touch the scarlet sleeve
of her companion, whereupon with an ill-tempered grunt the man swung
his great bulk round so that he directly confronted her.
Looking up into his face, she was speaking to him earnestly, but the
Colonel plainly gave her no more than the half of his attention.
His little beady eyes, closely flanking a fleshly, pendulous nose,
had passed from her and were fixed upon fair-haired, sturdy young
Pitt, who was standing beside Blood.
The Governor had also come to a halt, and for a moment now that
little group of three stood in conversation. What the lady said,
Peter could not hear at all, for she lowered her voice; the Colonel's
reached him in a confused rumble, but the Governor was neither
considerate nor indistinct; he had a high-pitched voice which carried
far, and believing himself witty, he desired to be heard by all.
"But, my dear Colonel Bishop, it is for you to take first choice
from this dainty nosegay, and at your own price. After that we'll
send the rest to auction."
Colonel Bishop nodded his acknowledgment. He raised his voice in
answering. "Your excellency is very good. But, faith, they're a
weedy lot, not likely to be of much value in the plantation." His
beady eyes scanned them again, and his contempt of them deepened
the malevolence of his face. It was as if he were annoyed with
them for being in no better condition. Then he beckoned forward
Captain Gardner, the master of the Jamaica Merchant, and for some
minutes stood in talk with him over a list which the latter produced
at his request.
Presently he waved aside the list and advanced alone towards the
rebels-convict, his eyes considering them, his lips pursed. Before
the young Somersetshire shipmaster he came to a halt, and stood an
instant pondering him. Then he fingered the muscles of the young
man's arm, and bade him open his mouth that he might see his teeth.
He pursed his coarse lips again and nodded.
He spoke to Gardner over his shoulder.
"Fifteen pounds for this one."
The Captain made a face of dismay. "Fifteen pounds! It isn't half
what I meant to ask for him."
"It is double what I had meant to give," grunted the Colonel.
"But he would be cheap at thirty pounds, your honour."
"I can get a negro for that. These white swine don't live. They're
not fit for the labour."
Gardner broke into protestations of Pitt's health, youth, and vigour.
It was not a man he was discussing; it was a beast of burden. Pitt,
a sensitive lad, stood mute and unmoving. Only the ebb and flow of
colour in his cheeks showed the inward struggle by which he
maintained his self-control.
Peter Blood was nauseated by the loathsome haggle.
In the background, moving slowly away down the line of prisoners,
went the lady in conversation with the Governor, who smirked and
preened himself as he limped beside her. She was unconscious of the
loathly business the Colonel was transacting. Was she, wondered
Blood, indifferent to it?
Colonel Bishop swung on his heel to pass on.
"I'll go as far as twenty pounds. Not a penny more, and it's twice
as much as you are like to get from Crabston."
Captain Gardner, recognizing the finality of the tone, sighed and
yielded. Already Bishop was moving down the line. For Mr. Blood,
as for a weedy youth on his left, the Colonel had no more than a
glance of contempt. But the next man, a middle-aged Colossus named
Wolverstone, who had lost an eye at Sedgemoor, drew his regard, and
the haggling was recommenced.
Peter Blood stood there in the brilliant sunshine and inhaled the
fragrant air, which was unlike any air that he had ever breathed.
It was laden with a strange perfume, blend of logwood flower,
pimento, and aromatic cedars. He lost himself in unprofitable
speculations born of that singular fragrance. He was in no mood for
conversation, nor was Pitt, who stood dumbly at his side, and who
was afflicted mainly at the moment by the thought that he was at
last about to be separated from this man with whom he had stood
shoulder to shoulder throughout all these troublous months, and
whom he had come to love and depend upon for guidance and sustenance.
A sense of loneliness and misery pervaded him by contrast with which
all that he had endured seemed as nothing. To Pitt, this separation
was the poignant climax of all his sufferings.
Other buyers came and stared at them, and passed on. Blood did not
heed them. And then at the end of the line there was a movement.
Gardner was speaking in a loud voice, making an announcement to the
general public of buyers that had waited until Colonel Bishop had
taken his choice of that human merchandise. As he finished, Blood,
looking in his direction, noticed that the girl was speaking to
Bishop, and pointing up the line with a silver-hilted riding-whip
she carried. Bishop shaded his eyes with his hand to look in the
direction in which she was pointing. Then slowly, with his
ponderous, rolling gait, he approached again accompanied by Gardner,
and followed by the lady and the Governor.
On they came until the Colonel was abreast of Blood. He would have
passed on, but that the lady tapped his arm with her whip.
"But this is the man I meant," she said.
"This one?" Contempt rang in the voice. Peter Blood found himself
staring into a pair of beady brown eyes sunk into a yellow, fleshly
face like currants into a dumpling. He felt the colour creeping
into his face under the insult of that contemptuous inspection.
"Bah! A bag of bones. What should I do with him?"
He was turning away when Gardner interposed.
"He maybe lean, but he's tough; tough and healthy. When half of
them was sick and the other half sickening, this rogue kept his legs
and doctored his fellows. But for him there'd ha' been more deaths
than there was. Say fifteen pounds for him, Colonel. That's cheap
enough. He's tough, I tell your honour - tough and strong, though
he be lean. And he's just the man to bear the heat when it comes.
The climate'll never kill him."
There came a chuckle from Governor Steed. "You hear, Colonel.
Trust your niece. Her sex knows a man when it sees one." And he
laughed, well pleased with his wit.
But he laughed alone. A cloud of annoyance swept across the face
of the Colonel's niece, whilst the Colonel himself was too absorbed
in the consideration of this bargain to heed the Governor's humour.
He twisted his lip a little, stroking his chin with his hand the
while. Jeremy Pitt had almost ceased to breathe.
"I'll give you ten pounds for him," said the Colonel at last.
Peter Blood prayed that the offer might be rejected. For no reason
that he could have given you, he was taken with repugnance at the
thought of becoming the property of this gross animal, and in some
sort the property of that hazel-eyed young girl. But it would need
more than repugnance to save him from his destiny. A slave is a
slave, and has no power to shape his fate. Peter Blood was sold
to Colonel Bishop - a disdainful buyer - for the ignominious sum of
One sunny morning in January, about a month after the arrival of
the Jamaica Merchant at Bridgetown, Miss Arabella Bishop rode out
from her uncle's fine house on the heights to the northwest of the
city. She was attended by two negroes who trotted after her at a
respectful distance, and her destination was Government House,
whither she went to visit the Governor's lady, who had lately been
ailing. Reaching the summit of a gentle, grassy slope, she met a
tall, lean man dressed in a sober, gentlemanly fashion, who was
walking in the opposite direction. He was a stranger to her, and
strangers were rare enough in the island. And yet in some vague
way he did not seem quite a stranger.
Miss Arabella drew rein, affecting to pause that she might admire
the prospect, which was fair enough to warrant it. Yet out of the
corner of those hazel eyes she scanned this fellow very attentively
as he came nearer. She corrected her first impression of his dress.
It was sober enough, but hardly gentlemanly. Coat and breeches were
of plain homespun; and if the former sat so well upon him it was
more by virtue of his natural grace than by that of tailoring. His
stockings were of cotton, harsh and plain, and the broad castor,
which he respectfully doffed as he came up with her, was an old one
unadorned by band or feather. What had seemed to be a periwig at a
little distance was now revealed for the man's own lustrous coiling
Out of a brown, shaven, saturnine face two eyes that were startlingly
blue considered her gravely. The man would have passed on but that
she detained him.
"I think I know you, sir," said she.
Her voice was crisp and boyish, and there was something of boyishness
in her manner - if one can apply the term to so dainty a lady. It
arose perhaps from an ease, a directness, which disdained the
artifices of her sex, and set her on good terms with all the world.
To this it may be due that Miss Arabella had reached the age of five
and twenty not merely unmarried but unwooed. She used with all men
a sisterly frankness which in itself contains a quality of aloofness,
rendering it difficult for any man to become her lover.
Her negroes had halted at some distance in the rear, and they
squatted now upon the short grass until it should be her pleasure
to proceed upon her way.
The stranger came to a standstill upon being addressed.
"A lady should know her own property," said he.
"Your uncle's, leastways. Let me present myself. I am called Peter
Blood, and I am worth precisely ten pounds. I know it because that
is the sum your uncle paid for me. It is not every man has the same
opportunities of ascertaining his real value."
She recognized him then. She had not seen him since that day upon
the mole a month ago, and that she should not instantly have known
him again despite the interest he had then aroused in her is not
surprising, considering the change he had wrought in his appearance,
which now was hardly that of a slave.
"My God!" said she. "And you can laugh!"
"It's an achievement," he admitted. "But then, I have not fared as
ill as I might."
"I have heard of that," said she.
What she had heard was that this rebel-convict had been discovered
to be a physician. The thing had come to the ears of Governor Steed,
who suffered damnably from the gout, and Governor Steed had borrowed
the fellow from his purchaser. Whether by skill or good fortune,
Peter Blood had afforded the Governor that relief which his
excellency had failed to obtain from the ministrations of either of
the two physicians practising in Bridgetown. Then the Governor's
lady had desired him to attend her for the megrims. Mr. Blood had
found her suffering from nothing worse than peevishness - the result
of a natural petulance aggravated by the dulness of life in Barbados
to a lady of her social aspirations. But he had prescribed for her
none the less, and she had conceived herself the better for his
prescription. After that the fame of him had gone through Bridgetown,
and Colonel Bishop had found that there was more profit to be made
out of this new slave by leaving him to pursue his profession than
by setting him to work on the plantations, for which purpose he had
been originally acquired.
"It is yourself, madam, I have to thank for my comparatively easy
and clean condition," said Mr. Blood, "and I am glad to take this
opportunity of doing so."
The gratitude was in his words rather than in his tone. Was he
mocking, she wondered, and looked at him with the searching frankness
that another might have found disconcerting. He took the glance for
a question, and answered it.
"If some other planter had bought me," he explained, "it is odds
that the facts of my shining abilities might never have been brought
to light, and I should be hewing and hoeing at this moment like the
poor wretches who were landed with me."
"And why do you thank me for that? It was my uncle who bought you."
"But he would not have done so had you not urged him. I perceived
your interest. At the time I resented it."
"You resented it?" There was a challenge in her boyish voice.
"I have had no lack of experiences of this mortal life; but to be
bought and sold was a new one, and I was hardly in the mood to love
"If I urged you upon my uncle, sir, it was that I commiserated you."
There was a slight severity in her tone, as if to reprove the mixture
of mockery and flippancy in which he seemed to be speaking.
She proceeded to explain herself. "My uncle may appear to you a
hard man. No doubt he is. They are all hard men, these planters.
It is the life, I suppose. But there are others here who are worse.
There is Mr. Crabston, for instance, up at Speightstown. He was
there on the mole, waiting to buy my uncle's leavings, and if you
had fallen into his hands ... A dreadful man. That is why."
He was a little bewildered.
"This interest in a stranger ..." he began. Then changed the
direction of his probe. "But there were others as deserving of
"You did not seem quite like the others."
"I am not," said he.
"Oh!" She stared at him, bridling a little. "You have a good
opinion of yourself."
"On the contrary. The others are all worthy rebels. I am not.
That is the difference. I was one who had not the wit to see that
England requires purifying. I was content to pursue a doctor's
trade in Bridgewater whilst my betters were shedding their blood
to drive out an unclean tyrant and his rascally crew."
"Sir!" she checked him. "I think you are talking treason."
"I hope I am not obscure," said he.
"There are those here who would have you flogged if they heard you."
"The Governor would never allow it. He has the gout, and his lady
has the megrims."
"Do you depend upon that?" She was frankly scornful.
"You have certainly never had the gout; probably not even the
megrims," said he.
She made a little impatient movement with her hand, and looked away
from him a moment, out to sea. Quite suddenly she looked at him
again; and now her brows were knit.
"But if you are not a rebel, how come you here?"
He saw the thing she apprehended, and he laughed. "Faith, now, it's
a long story," said he.
"And one perhaps that you would prefer not to tell?"
Briefly on that he told it her.
"My God! What an infamy!" she cried, when he had done.
"Oh, it's a sweet country England under King James! There's no need
to commiserate me further. All things considered I prefer Barbados.
Here at least one can believe in God."
He looked first to right, then to left as he spoke, from the distant
shadowy bulk of Mount Hillbay to the limitless ocean ruffled by the
winds of heaven. Then, as if the fair prospect rendered him
conscious of his own littleness and the insignificance of his woes,
he fell thoughtful.
"Is that so difficult elsewhere?" she asked him, and she was very
"Men make it so."
"I see." She laughed a little, on a note of sadness, it seemed to
him. "I have never deemed Barbados the earthly mirror of heaven,"
she confessed. "But no doubt you know your world better than I."
She touched her horse with her little silver-hilted whip. "I
congratulate you on this easing of your misfortunes."
He bowed, and she moved on. Her negroes sprang up, and went
trotting after her.
Awhile Peter Blood remained standing there, where she left him,
conning the sunlit waters of Carlisle Bay below, and the shipping
in that spacious haven about which the gulls were fluttering
It was a fair enough prospect, he reflected, but it was a prison,
and in announcing that he preferred it to England, he had indulged
that almost laudable form of boasting which lies in belittling our
He turned, and resuming his way, went off in long, swinging strides
towards the little huddle of huts built of mud and wattles - a
miniature village enclosed in a stockade which the plantation slaves
inhabited, and where he, himself, was lodged with them.
Through his mind sang the line of Lovelace:
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage."
But he gave it a fresh meaning, the very converse of that which its
author had intended. A prison, he reflected, was a prison, though
it had neither walls nor bars, however spacious it might be. And
as he realized it that morning so he was to realize it increasingly
as time sped on. Daily he came to think more of his clipped wings,
of his exclusion from the world, and less of the fortuitous liberty
he enjoyed. Nor did the contrasting of his comparatively easy lot
with that of his unfortunate fellow-convicts bring him the
satisfaction a differently constituted mind might have derived from
it. Rather did the contemplation of their misery increase the
bitterness that was gathering in his soul.
Of the forty-two who had been landed with him from the Jamaica
Merchant, Colonel Bishop had purchased no less than twenty-five.
The remainder had gone to lesser planters, some of them to
Speightstown, and others still farther north. What may have been
the lot of the latter he could not tell, but amongst Bishop's slaves
Peter Blood came and went freely, sleeping in their quarters, and
their lot he knew to be a brutalizing misery. They toiled in the
sugar plantations from sunrise to sunset, and if their labours
flagged, there were the whips of the overseer and his men to quicken
them. They went in rags, some almost naked; they dwelt in squalor,
and they were ill-nourished on salted meat and maize dumplings -
food which to many of them was for a season at least so nauseating
that two of them sickened and died before Bishop remembered that
their lives had a certain value in labour to him and yielded to
Blood's intercessions for a better care of such as fell ill. To
curb insubordination, one of them who had rebelled against Kent, the
brutal overseer, was lashed to death by negroes under his comrades'
eyes, and another who had been so misguided as to run away into the
woods was tracked, brought back, flogged, and then branded on the
forehead with the letters "F. T.," that all might know him for a
fugitive traitor as long as he lived. Fortunately for him the poor
fellow died as a consequence of the flogging.
After that a dull, spiritless resignation settled down upon the
remainder. The most mutinous were quelled, and accepted their
unspeakable lot with the tragic fortitude of despair.
Peter Blood alone, escaping these excessive sufferings, remained
outwardly unchanged, whilst inwardly the only change in him was a
daily deeper hatred of his kind, a daily deeper longing to escape
from this place where man defiled so foully the lovely work of his
Creator. It was a longing too vague to amount to a hope. Hope
here was inadmissible. And yet he did not yield to despair. He
set a mask of laughter on his saturnine countenance and went his
way, treating the sick to the profit of Colonel Bishop, and
encroaching further and further upon the preserves of the two
other men of medicine in Bridgetown.
Immune from the degrading punishments and privations of his
fellow-convicts, he was enabled to keep his self-respect, and was
treated without harshness even by the soulless planter to whom he
had been sold. He owed it all to gout and megrims. He had won
the esteem of Governor Steed, and - what is even more important
- of Governor Steed's lady, whom he shamelessly and cynically
flattered and humoured.
Occasionally he saw Miss Bishop, and they seldom met but that she
paused to hold him in conversation for some moments, evincing her
interest in him. Himself, he was never disposed to linger. He was
not, he told himself, to be deceived by her delicate exterior, her
sapling grace, her easy, boyish ways and pleasant, boyish voice.
In all his life - and it had been very varied - he had never met a
man whom he accounted more beastly than her uncle, and he could not
dissociate her from the man. She was his niece, of his own blood,
and some of the vices of it, some of the remorseless cruelty of
the wealthy planter must, he argued, inhabit that pleasant body of
hers. He argued this very often to himself, as if answering and
convincing some instinct that pleaded otherwise, and arguing it he
avoided her when it was possible, and was frigidly civil when it
Justifiable as his reasoning was, plausible as it may seem, yet he
would have done better to have trusted the instinct that was in
conflict with it. Though the same blood ran in her veins as in
those of Colonel Bishop, yet hers was free of the vices that tainted
her uncle's, for these vices were not natural to that blood; they
were, in his case, acquired. Her father, Tom Bishop - that same
Colonel Bishop's brother - had been a kindly, chivalrous, gentle
soul, who, broken-hearted by the early death of a young wife, had
abandoned the Old World and sought an anodyne for his grief in
the New. He had come out to the Antilles, bringing with him his
little daughter, then five years of age, and had given himself up
to the life of a planter. He had prospered from the first, as men
sometimes will who care nothing for prosperity. Prospering, he
had bethought him of his younger brother, a soldier at home
reputed somewhat wild. He had advised him to come out to Barbados;
and the advice, which at another season William Bishop might have
scorned, reached him at a moment when his wildness was beginning to
bear such fruit that a change of climate was desirable. William
came, and was admitted by his generous brother to a partnership
in the prosperous plantation. Some six years later, when Arabella
was fifteen, her father died, leaving her in her uncle's
guardianship. It was perhaps his one mistake. But the goodness of
his own nature coloured his views of other men; moreover, himself,
he had conducted the education of his daughter, giving her an
independence of character upon which perhaps he counted unduly. As
things were, there was little love between uncle and niece. But
she was dutiful to him, and he was circumspect in his behaviour
before her. All his life, and for all his wildness, he had gone
in a certain awe of his brother, whose worth he had the wit to
recognize; and now it was almost as if some of that awe was
transferred to his brother's child, who was also, in a sense, his
partner, although she took no active part in the business of the
Peter Blood judged her - as we are all too prone to judge - upon
He was very soon to have cause to correct that judgment. One day
towards the end of May, when the heat was beginning to grow
oppressive, there crawled into Carlisle Bay a wounded, battered
English ship, the Pride of Devon, her freeboard scarred and broken,
her coach a gaping wreck, her mizzen so shot away that only a jagged
stump remained to tell the place where it had stood. She had been
in action off Martinique with two Spanish treasure ships, and
although her captain swore that the Spaniards had beset him without
provocation, it is difficult to avoid a suspicion that the encounter
had been brought about quite otherwise. One of the Spaniards had
fled from the combat, and if the Pride of Devon had not given chase
it was probably because she was by then in no case to do so. The
other had been sunk, but not before the English ship had transferred
to her own hold a good deal of the treasure aboard the Spaniard.
It was, in fact, one of those piratical affrays which were a
perpetual source of trouble between the courts of St. James's and
the Escurial, complaints emanating now from one and now from the
Steed, however, after the fashion of most Colonial governors, was
willing enough to dull his wits to the extent of accepting the
English seaman's story, disregarding any evidence that might belie
it. He shared the hatred so richly deserved by arrogant, overbearing
Spain that was common to men of every other nation from the Bahamas
to the Main. Therefore he gave the Pride of Devon the shelter she
sought in his harbour and every facility to careen and carry out
But before it came to this, they fetched from her hold over a score
of English seamen as battered and broken as the ship herself, and
together with these some half-dozen Spaniards in like case, the
only survivors of a boarding party from the Spanish galleon that
had invaded the English ship and found itself unable to retreat.
These wounded men were conveyed to a long shed on the wharf, and
the medical skill of Bridgetown was summoned to their aid. Peter
Blood was ordered to bear a hand in this work, and partly because
he spoke Castilian - and he spoke it as fluently as his own native
tongue - partly because of his inferior condition as a slave, he
was given the Spaniards for his patients.
Now Blood had no cause to love Spaniards. His two years in a Spanish
prison and his subsequent campaigning in the Spanish Netherlands had
shown him a side of the Spanish character which he had found anything
but admirable. Nevertheless he performed his doctor's duties
zealously and painstakingly, if emotionlessly, and even with a
certain superficial friendliness towards each of his patients.
These were so surprised at having their wounds healed instead of
being summarily hanged that they manifested a docility very unusual
in their kind. They were shunned, however, by all those charitably
disposed inhabitants of Bridgetown who flocked to the improvised
hospital with gifts of fruit and flowers and delicacies for the
injured English seamen. Indeed, had the wishes of some of these
inhabitants been regarded, the Spaniards would have been left to
die like vermin, and of this Peter Blood had an example almost at
the very outset.
With the assistance of one of the negroes sent to the shed for the
purpose, he was in the act of setting a broken leg, when a deep,
gruff voice, that he had come to know and dislike as he had never
disliked the voice of living man, abruptly challenged him.
"What are you doing there?"
Blood did not look up from his task. There was not the need. He