Part 2 out of 6
But now, and all at once, from the wild company rose a sudden hoarse murmur
that swelled again to that fierce, exultant uproar as down towards us paced
"Aha, 'tis the Marquis!" they cried. "'Tis the bloody Marquis! Shoot the
dog! Nay, hang him up! Aye, by his thumbs. Nay, burn him--to the fire wi'
the bloody rogue!"
Unheeding their vengeful outcry he advanced upon the men (and these
ravening for his blood), viewing their lowering faces and brandished steel
with his calm, dispassionate gaze and very proud and upright for all his
bodily weakness; pausing beside me, he threw up his hand with haughty
gesture and before the command of this ragged arm they abated their clamour
"Of a surety," said he in his precise English, "it is the Capitan
Belvedere. You captured my daughter--my son--in the _Margarita_ carrack
three years agone. 'Tis said he died at your hands, Seņor Capitan--"
"Not mine, Don, not mine," answered this Belvedere, smiling sleepily. "We
gave him to Black Pompey to carbonado." I felt Don Federigo's hand against
me as if suddenly faint, but his wide-eyed gaze never left the Captain's
handsome face, who, aware of this look, shifted his own gaze, cocked his
hat and swaggered. "Stare your fill, now," quoth he with an oath, "'tis
little enough you'll be seeing presently. Aye, you'll be blind enough
"Blind is it, Cap'n--ha, good!" cried a squat, ill-looking fellow, whipping
out a long knife. "Hung my comrade Jem, a did, so here's a knife shall
blind him when ye will, Cap'n, by hookey!" And now he and his fellows began
to crowd upon us with evil looks; but they halted suddenly, fumbling with
their weapons and eyeing Joanna uncertainly where she stood, hand on hip,
viewing them with her fleering smile.
"Die he shall, yes!" said she at last. "Die he must, but in proper fashion
and time, not by such vermin as you--so put up that knife! You hear me,
"Hanged my comrade Jem, a did, along o' many others o' the Fellowship!"
growled the squat man, flourishing his knife, "Moreover the Cap'n says
'blind' says he, so blind it is, says I, and this the knife to--" The
growling voice was drowned in the roar of a pistol and, dropping his knife,
the fellow screamed and caught at his hurt.
"And there's for you, yes!" said Joanna, smiling into the man's agonised
face, "Be thankful I spared your worthless life. Crawl into the boat, worm,
and wait till I'm minded to patch up your hurt--Go!"
For a moment was silence, then came a great gust of laughter, and men
clapped and pummelled each other.
"La Culebra!" they roared. "'Tis our Jo, 'tis Fighting Jo, sure and
sartain; 'tis our luck, the luck o' the Brotherhood--ha, Joanna!"
But, tossing aside the smoking pistol, Joanna scowled from them to their
"Hola, Belvedere," said she. "Your dogs do grow out of hand; 'tis well I'm
back again. Now for these my prisoners, seize 'em up, bind 'em fast and
heave 'em aboard ship."
"Aye, but," said Belvedere, fingering his beard, "why aboard, Jo, when we
may do their business here and prettily. Yon's a tree shall make notable
good gallows or--look now, here's right plenty o' kindling, and driftwood
shall burn 'em merrily and 'twill better please the lads--"
"But then I do pleasure myself, yes. So aboard ship they go!"
"Why, look now, Jo," said Belvedere, biting at his thumb, "'tis ever my
rule to keep no prisoners--"
"Save women, Cap'n!" cried a voice, drowned in sudden evil laughter.
"So, as I say, Joanna, these prisoners cannot go aboard my ship."
"Your ship?" said she, mighty scornful. "Ah, ah, but 'twas I made you
captain of your ship and 'tis I can unmake you--"
"Why look ye, Jo," said Belvedere, gnawing at his thumb more savagely and
glancing towards his chafing company, "the good lads be growing impatient,
being all heartily for ending these prisoners according to custom--"
"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" cried divers of the men, beginning to crowd upon us
again. "To the fire with 'em! Nay, send aboard for Black Pompey! Aye,
Pompey's the lad to set 'em dancing Indian fashion--"
"You hear, Jo, you hear?" cried Belvedere. "The lads are for ending of 'em
sportive fashion--especially the Don; he must die slow and quaint for
sake 'o the good lads as do hang a-rotting on his cursed gibbets e'en
now--quaint and slow; the lads think so and so think I--"
"But you were ever a dull fool, my pretty man, yes!" said Joanna, showing
her teeth. "And as for these rogues, they do laugh at you--see!" But as
Belvedere turned to scowl upon and curse his ribalds, Joanna deftly whisked
the pistols from his belt and every face was smitten to sudden anxious
gravity as she faced them.
"I am Joanna!" quoth she, her red lips curving to the smile I ever found so
hateful. "Oh, Madre de Dios, where now are your tongues? And never a smile
among ye! Is there a man here that will not obey Joanna--no? Joanna that
could kill any of ye single-handed as she killed Cestiforo!" At this was an
uneasy stir and muttering among them, and Belvedere's sleepy eyes widened
suddenly. "Apes!" cried she, beslavering them with all manner of abuse,
French, Spanish and English. "Monkeys, cease your chattering and list to
Joanna. And mark--my prisoners go aboard this very hour, yes. And to-day we
sail for Nombre de Dios. Being before the town we send in a boat under flag
of truce to say we hold captive their governor, Don Federigo de Cosalva y
Maldonada, demanding for him a sufficient ransom. The money paid, then
will we fire a broadside into the city and the folk shall see their proud
Governor swung aloft to dangle and kick at our mainyard; so do we achieve
vengeance and money both--"
From every throat burst a yell of wild acclaim, shout on shout: "Hey, lads,
for Cap'n Jo! 'Tis she hath the wise head, mates! Money and vengeance, says
Jo! Shout, lads, for Fighting Jo--shout!"
"And what o' your big rogue, Jo?" demanded Belvedere, scowling on me.
"He?" said Joanna, curling her lip at me. "Oh, la-la, he shall be our
slave--'til he weary me. So--bring: them along!"
But now (and all too late) perceiving death to be the nobler part, even as
Don Federigo had said, I determined to end matters then and there; thus,
turning from Joanna's baleful smile, I leapt suddenly upon the nearest of
the pirates and felling him with a buffet, came to grips with another; this
man I swung full-armed, hurling him among his fellows, and all before a
shot might be fired. But as I stood fronting them, awaiting the stab or
bullet should end me, I heard Joanna's voice shrill and imperious:
"Hold, lads! You are twelve and he but one and unarmed. So down with your
weapons--down, I say! You shall take me this man with your naked hands--ha,
fists--yes! Smite then--bruise him, fists shall never kill him! To it, with
your hands then; the first man that draweth weapon I shoot! To it, lads,
sa-ha--at him then, good bullies!"
For a moment they hesitated but seeing Joanna, her cheeks aglow, her
pistols grasped in ready hands, they laughed and cursed and, loosing off
such things as incommoded them, prepared to come at me. Then, perceiving
she had fathomed my design and that here was small chance of finding sudden
quietus, I folded my arms, minded to let them use me as they would. But
this fine resolution was brought to none account by a small piece of
driftwood that one of these fellows hove at me, thereby setting my mouth
a-bleeding. Stung by the blow and forgetting all but my anger, I leapt and
smote with my fist, and then he and his fellows were upon me. But they
being so many their very numbers hampered them, so that as they leapt upon
me many a man was staggered by kick or buffet aimed at me; moreover these
passed their days cooped up on shipboard whiles I was a man hardened by
constant exercise. Scarce conscious of the hurts I took as we reeled to and
fro, locked in furious grapple, I fought them very joyously, making right
good play with my fists; but ever as I smote one down, another leapt to
smite, so that presently my breath began to labour. How long I endured, I
know not. Only I remember marvelling to find myself so strong and the keen
joy of it was succeeded by sudden weariness, a growing sickness: I remember
a sound of groaning breaths all about me, of thudding blows, hoarse shouts,
these, waxing ever fainter, until smiting with failing arms and ever-waning
strength, they dragged me down at last and I lay vanquished and
unresisting. As I sprawled there, drawing my breath in painful gasps, the
hands that smote, the merciless feet that kicked and trampled me were
suddenly stilled and staring up with dimming eyes I saw Joanna looking down
"Oh, Martino," said she in my ear, "Oh, fool Englishman, could you but love
as you do fight--"
But groaning, I turned my face to the trampled sand and knew no more.
HOW I CAME ABOARD THE _HAPPY DESPATCH_ AND OF MY SUFFERINGS THERE
I awoke gasping to the shock of cold water and was dimly aware of divers
people crowding about me.
"'Tis a fine, bull-bodied boy, Job, all brawn and beef--witness your eye,
Lord love me!" exclaimed a jovial voice, "Aha, Job, a lusty lad--heave
t'other bucket over him!" There came another torrent of water, whereupon I
strove to sit up, but finding this vain by reason of strict bonds, I cursed
them all and sundry instead.
"A sturdy soul, Job, and of a comfortable conversation!" quoth the voice.
"Moreover a man o' mark, as witnesseth your peeper."
"Rot him!" growled the man Job, a beastly-seeming fellow, very slovenly and
foul of person, who glared down at me out of one eye, the other being so
bruised and swollen as to serve him no whit.
"He should be overside wi' his guts full o' shot for this same heye of mine
if 'twas my say--"
"But then it ain't your say, Job, nor yet Belvedere's--'tis hern,
Job--hern--Cap'n Jo's. 'He's to be took care of,' says she, 'treated kind
and gentle,' says she. And, mark me, here's Belvedere's nose out o' joint,
d'ye see? And, talkin' o' noses, there's your eye, Job; sink me but he
wiped your eye for you, my--"
"Plague and perish him!" snarled Job, kicking me viciously. "Burn him, 'tis
keelhaul 'im I would first and then give 'im to Pompey to carve up what
"Pompey?" exclaimed this fellow Diccon, a merry-seeming fellow but with a
truculent eye. "Look 'ee, Job, here's a match for Pompey at last, as I do
think, man to man, bare fists or knives, a match and I'll lay to't."
"Pshaw!" growled Job. "Pompey could eat 'im--bones and all, curse 'im!
Pompey would break 'is back as 'e did the big Spaniard's last week."
"Nay, Job, this fellow should make better fight for't than did the
Spanisher. Look 'ee now, match 'em, and I'll lay all my share o' the voyage
on this fellow, come now!"
"A match? Why so I would, but what o' Belvedere?"
"He sulketh, Job, and yonder he cometh, a-sucking of his thumb and all
along o' this fellow and our Jo. Joanna's cocked her eye on this fellow and
Belvedere's cake's dough--see him yonder!"
Now following the speaker's look, I perceived Captain Belvedere descending
the quarter-ladder, his handsome face very evil and scowling; spying me
where I lay, he came striding up and folding his arms, stood looking over
me silently awhile.
"Lord love me!" he exclaimed at last in huge disgust and spat upon me. "Aft
with him--to the coach--"
"Coach, Cap'n?" questioned Job, staring. "And why theer?"
"Because I say so!" roared Belvedere.
"And because," quoth Diccon, his eye more truculent than ever, "because
women will be women, eh, Captain?" At this Belvedere's face grew suffused,
his eyes glared and he turned on the speaker with clenched fist; then
laughing grimly, he spurned me savagely with his foot.
"Joanna hath her whimsies, and here's one of 'em!" quoth he and spat on me
again, whereat I raged and strove, despite my bonds, to come at him.
"I were a-saying to Job," quoth the man Diccon, thrusting me roughly beyond
reach of Belvedere's heavy foot, "that here was a fellow to match Pompey at
"Tush!" said Belvedere, with an oath. "Pompey would quarter him wi' naked
"I was a-saying to Job I would wager my share in the voyage on this fellow,
"Aye, Cap'n," growled Job, "'tis well enough keeping the Don to hang
afore Nombre but why must this dog live aft and cosseted? He should walk
overboard wi' slit weasand, or better--he's meat for Pompey, and wherefore
no? I asks why, Cap'n?"
"Aye--why!" cried Belvedere, gnashing his teeth. "Ask her--go ask Joanna,
the curst jade."
"She be only a woman, when all's said, Cap'n--"
"Nay, Job," quoth Belvedere, shaking his head. "She's Joanna and behind
her do lie Tressady and Sol and Rory and Abnegation Mings--and all the
Fellowship. So if she says he lives, lives it is, to lie soft and feed
dainty, curse him. Let me die if I don't wish I'd left her on the island to
end him her own way--wi' steel or kindness--"
"Kindness!" said Diccon, with an ugly leer. "Why, there it is, Cap'n; she's
off wi' the old and on wi' the new, like--"
"Not yet, by God!" snarled Belvedere 'twixt shut teeth and scowling down on
me while his hand clawed at the pistol in his belt; then his gaze wandered
from me towards the poop and back again. "Curse him!" said he, stamping in
his impotent fury. "I'd give a handful o' gold pieces to see him dead and
be damned!" And here he fell a-biting savagely at his thumb again.
"Why, then, here's a lad to earn 'em," quoth Job, "an' that's me. I've a
score agin him for this lick o' the eye he give me ashore--nigh blinded me,
'e did, burn an' blast his bones!"
"Aye, but what o' Joanna, what o' that she-snake, ha?"
"'Tis no matter for her. I've a plan."
"What is't, Job lad? Speak fair and the money's good as yourn--"
"Aye, but it ain't mine yet, Cap'n, so mum it but I've a plan."
"Belay, Job!" exclaimed Diccon. "Easy all. Yonder she cometh."
Sure enough, I saw Joanna descend the ladder from the poop and come mincing
across the deck towards us.
"Hola, Belvedere, mon Capitan!" said she, glancing about her quick-eyed.
"You keep your ship very foul, yes. Dirt to dirt!--ah? But I am aboard and
this shall be amended--look to it. And your mizzen yard is sprung; down
with it and sway up another--"
"Aye, aye, Jo," said Belvedere, nodding. "It shall be done--"
"_Maņana_!" quoth she, frowning. "This doth not suit when I am aboard,
no! The new yard must be rigged now, at once, for we sail with the
"Sail, Jo?" said Belvedere, staring. "Can't be, Jo!"
"Why--we be short o' water, for one thing."
"Ah--bah, we shall take all we want from other ships!"
"And the lads be set, heart and soul, on a few days ashore."
"But then--I am set, my heart, my soul, on heaving anchor so soon as the
tide serves. We will sail with the flood. Now see the new yard set up and
have this slave Martin o' mine to my cabin." So saying, she turned on her
heel and minced away, while Belvedere stood looking after her and biting at
his thumb, Job scowled and Diccon smiled.
"So--ho!" quoth he. "Captain Jo says we sail, and sail it is, hey?"
"Blind you!" cried Belvedere, turning on him in a fury. "Go forward and
turn out two o' the lads to draw this carcass aft!" Here bestowing a final
kick on me, he swaggered away.
"Sail wi' the flood, is it?" growled Job. "And us wi' scarce any water
and half on us rotten wi' scurvy or calenture, an' no luck this cruise,
neither! 'Sail wi' the flood,' says she--'be damned,' says I. By hookey,
but I marvel she lives; I wonder no one don't snuff her out for good an'
all--aye, burn me but I do!"
"Because you're a fool, Job, and don't know her like we do. She's 'La
Culebra,' and why? Because she's quick as any snake and as deadly. Besides,
she's our luck and luck she'll bring us; she always do. Whatever ship she's
aboard of has all the luck, wind, weather, and--what's better, rich prizes,
Job. I know it and the lads forrad know it, and Belvedere he knows it and
is mighty feared of her and small blame either--aye, and mayhap you'll be
afeard of her when you know her better. 'She's only a woman,' says you.
'True,' says I. But in all this here world there ain't her match, woman or
man, and you can lay to that, my lad."
Now the ropes that secured me being very tight, began to cause me no
little pain, insomuch that I besought the man Diccon to loose me a little,
whereupon he made as to comply, but Job, who it seemed was quartermaster,
and new in the office, would have none of it but cursed me vehemently
instead, and hailing two men had me forthwith dragged aft to a small cabin
under the poop and there (having abused and cuffed me to his heart's
content) left me.
And in right woful plight was I, with clothes nigh torn off and myself
direly bruised from head to foot, and what with this and the cramping
strictness of my bonds I could come by no easement, turn and twist me how I
might. After some while, as I lay thus miserable and pain in every joint of
me, the door opened, closed and Joanna stood above me.
"Ah, ah--you are very foul o' blood!" said she in bitter mockery. "'Twas
thus you spake me once, Martino, you'll mind! 'Very foul o' blood,' said
you, and I famishing with hunger! Art hungry, Martino?" she questioned,
bending over me; but meeting her look, I scowled and held my peace. "Ha,
won't ye talk? Is the sullen fit on you?" said she, scowling also.
"Then shall you hear me! And first, know this: you are mine henceforth,
aye--mine!" So saying, she seated herself on the cushioned locker whereby
I lay and, setting her foot upon my breast and elbow on knee, leaned above
me, dimpled chin on fist, staring down on me with her sombre gaze. "You
are mine," said she again, "to use as I will, to exalt or cast down. I can
bestow on ye life or very evil death. By my will ye are alive; when I
will you must surely die. Your wants, your every need must you look to me
for--so am I your goddess and ruler of your destiny, yes! Ah, had you been
more of man and less of fish, I had made you captain of this ship, and
loved you, Martino, loved you--!"
"Aye," cried I bitterly, "until you wearied of me as you have wearied of
this rogue Belvedere, it seems--aye, and God knoweth how many more--"
"Oh, la-la, fool--these I never loved--"
"Why, then," said I, "the more your shame!"
As I uttered the words, she leaned down and smote me lightly upon my
swollen lips and so left me. But presently back she came and with her three
of the crew, bearing chains, etc., which fellows at her command (albeit
they were something gone in liquor) forthwith clapped me up in these
fetters and thereafter cut away the irksome cords that bound me. Whiles
this was a-doing, she (quick to mark their condition) lashed them with her
tongue, giving them "loathly sots," "drunken swine," "scum o' the world"
and the like epithets, all of the which they took in mighty humble fashion,
knuckling their foreheads, ducking their heads with never a word and mighty
glad to stumble away and be gone at flick of her contemptuous finger.
"So here's you, Martino," said she, when we were alone, "here's you in
chains that might have been free, and here's myself very determined you
shall learn somewhat of shame and be slave at command of such beasts as
yonder. D'ye hear, fool, d'ye hear?" But I heeding her none at all, she
kicked me viciously so that I flinched (despite myself) for I was very
sore; whereat she gave a little laugh:
"Ah, ah!" said she, nodding. "If I did not love you, now would I watch you
die! But the time is not yet--no. When that hour is then, if I am not your
death, you shall be mine--death for one or other or both, for I--"
She sprang to her feet as from the deck above came the uproar of sudden
brawl with drunken outcry.
"Ah, Madre de Dios!" said she, stamping in her anger. "Oh, these bestial
things called men!" which said, she whipped a pistol from her belt, cocked
it and was gone with a quick, light patter of feet. Suddenly I heard the
growing tumult overhead split and smitten to silence by a pistol-shot,
followed by a wailing cry that was drowned in the tramp of feet away
As for me, my poor body, freed of its bonds, found great easement thereby
(and despite my irons) so that I presently laid myself down on one of
these cushioned lockers (and indeed, though small, this cabin was rarely
luxurious and fine) but scarce had I stretched my aching limbs than the
door opened and a man entered.
And surely never in all this world was stranger creature to be seen. Gaunt
and very lean was he of person and very well bedight from heel to head, but
the face that peered out 'twixt the curls of his great periwig lacked for
an eye and was seamed and seared with scars in horrid fashion; moreover the
figure beneath his rich, wide-skirted coat seemed warped and twisted beyond
nature; yet as he stood viewing me with his solitary eye (this grey and
very quick and bright) there was that in his appearance that somehow took
"What, messmate," quoth he, in full, hearty voice, advancing with a
shambling limp, "here cometh one to lay alongside you awhile, old
Resolution Day, friend, mate o' this here noble ship _Happy Despatch_,
comrade, and that same myself, look'ee!"
But having no mind to truck with him or any of this evil company, I bid him
leave me be and cursed him roundly for the pirate-rogue he was.
"Pirate," said he, no whit abashed at my outburst. "Why, pirate it is. But
look'ee, there never was pirate the like o' me for holiness--'specially o'
Sundays! Lord love you, there's never a parson or divine, high church or
low, a patch on me for real holiness--'specially o' Sundays. So do I pray
when cometh my time to die, be it in bed or boots, by sickness, bullet or
noose, it may chance of a Sunday. And then again, why not a pirate? What o'
yourself, friend? There's a regular fire-and-blood, skull-and-bones look
about ye as liketh me very well. And there be many worse things than a mere
pirate, brother. And what? You'll go for to ask. Answer I--Spanishers,
Papishers, the Pope o' Rome and his bloody Inquisition, of which last I
have lasting experience, _camarado_--aye, I have I!"
"Ah?" said I, sitting up. "You have suffered the torture?"
"Comrade, look at me! The fire, the pulley, the rack, the wheel, the
water--there's no devilment they ha'n't tried on this poor carcase o' mine
and all by reason of a Spanish nun as bore away with my brother!"
"Aye, but 'twas me she loved, for I was younger then and something kinder
to the eye. So him they burned, her they buried alive and me they tormented
into the wrack ye see. But I escaped wi' my life, the Lord delivered me
out o' their bloody hands, which was an ill thing for them, d'ye see, for
though I lack my starboard blinker and am somewhat crank i' my spars alow
and aloft, I can yet ply whinger and pull trigger rare and apt enough for
the rooting out of evil. And where a fairer field for the aforesaid rooting
out o' Papishers, Portingales, and the like evil men than this good ship,
the _Happy Despatch?_ Aha, messmate, there's many such as I've despatched
hot-foot to their master Sathanas, 'twixt then and now. And so 'tis I'm a
pirate and so being so do I sing along o' David: 'Blessed be the Lord my
strength that teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight.' A rare
gift o' words had Davy and for curses none may compare." Hereupon, seating
himself on the locker over against me, he thrust a hand into his great side
pocket and brought thence a hank of small-cord, a silver-mounted pistol and
lastly a small, much battered volume.
"Look'ee, comrade," said he, tapping the worn covers with bony finger,
"the Bible is a mighty fine book to fight by; to stir up a man for battle,
murder or sudden death it hath no equal and for keeping his hate agin his
enemies ever a-burning, there is no book written or ever will be--"
"You talk blasphemy!" quoth I.
"Avast, avast!" cried he. "Here's no blasphemy, thought or word. I love
this little Bible o' mine; His meat and drink to me, the friend o' my
solitude, my solace in pain, my joy for ever and alway. Some men, being
crossed in fortune, hopes, ambition or love, take 'em to drink and the like
vanities. I, that suffered all this, took to the Bible and found all my
needs betwixt the covers o' this little book. For where shall a wronged
man find such a comfortable assurance as this? Hark ye what saith our
Psalmist!" Turning over a page or so and lifting one knotted fist aloft,
Resolution Day read this:
"'I shall bathe my footsteps in the blood of mine enemies and the tongues
of the dogs shall be red with the same!' The which," said he, rolling his
bright eye at me, "the which is a sweet, pretty fancy for the solace of one
hath endured as much as I. Aye, a noble book is Psalms. I know it by heart.
List ye to this, now! 'The wicked shall perish and the enemies of the Lord
be as the fat of rams, as smoke shall they consume away.' Brother, I've
watched 'em so consume many's the time and been the better for't. Hark'ee
again: 'They shall be as chaff before the wind. As a snail that melteth
they shall every one pass away. Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!'
saith Davy, aye and belike did it too, and so have I ere now with a pistol
butt. I mind once when we stormed Santa Catalina and the women and children
a-screaming in the church which chanced to be afire, I took out my Bible
here and read these comfortable words: 'The righteous shall rejoice when he
seeth the vengeance, he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked so
that a man shall say: Verily there is a reward for the righteous.' Aha,
brother, for filling a man wi' a gust of hate and battle, there's nought
like the Bible. And when a curse is wanted, give me David. Davy was a man
of his hands, moreover, and so are you, friend. I watched ye fight on the
sand-spit yonder; twelve to one is long enough odds for any man, and yet
here's five o' the twelve wi' bones broke and never a one but wi' some mark
o' your handiwork to show, which is vastly well, comrade. Joanna's choice
is mine, messmate--"
"How d'ye mean?" I demanded, scowling, whereupon he beamed on me
friendly-wise and blinked his solitary eye.
"There is no man aboard this ship," quoth he, nodding again, "no, not one
as could keep twelve in play so long, friend, saving only Black Pompey--"
"I've heard his name already," said I, "what like is he and who?"
"A poor heathen, comrade, a blackamoor, friend, a child of Beelzebub
abounding in blood, brother--being torturer, executioner and cook and
notable in each several office. A man small of soul yet great of body,
being nought but a poor, black heathen, as I say. And ashore yonder you
shall hear our Christian messmates a-quarrelling over their rum as is the
way o' your Christians hereabouts--hark to 'em!"
The _Happy Despatch_ lay anchored hard by the reef and rode so near the
island that, glancing from one of her stern-gallery windows I might behold
Deliverance Beach shining under the moon and a great fire blazing, round
which danced divers of the crew, filling the night with lewd, unholy riot
of drunken singing and shouts that grew ever more fierce and threatening. I
was gazing upon this scene and Resolution Day beside me, when the door was
flung open and Job the quartermaster appeared.
"Cap'n Jo wants ye ashore wi' her!" said he, beckoning to Resolution, who
nodded and thrusting Bible into pocket, took thence the silver-mounted
pistol, examined flint and priming and thrusting it into his belt, followed
Job out of the cabin, locking the door upon me. Thereafter I was presently
aware of a boat putting off from the ship and craning my neck, saw it was
rowed by Resolution with Joanna in the stern sheets, a naked sword across
her knees; and my gaze held by the glimmer of this steel, I watched them
row into the lagoon and so to that spit of sand opposite Skeleton Cove.
I saw the hateful glitter of this deadly steel as Joanna leapt lightly
ashore, followed more slowly by Resolution. But suddenly divers of the
rogues about the fire, beholding Joanna as she advanced against them thus,
sword in hand, cried out a warning to their fellows, who, ceasing from
their strife, immediately betook them to their heels, fleeing before her
like so many mischievous lads; marvelling, I watched until she had pursued
them out of my view.
Hereupon I took to an examination of my fetters, link by link, but finding
them mighty secure, laid me down as comfortably as they would allow and
fell to pondering my desperate situation, and seeing no way out herefrom
(and study how I might) I began to despond; but presently, bethinking me of
Don Federigo and judging his case more hopeless than mine (if this could
well be), and further, remembering how, but for me, he would by death have
delivered himself, I (that had not prayed this many a long month) now
petitioned the God to whom nothing is impossible that He would save alive
this noble gentleman of Spain, and thus, in his sorrows, forgot mine own
All at once I started up, full of sudden great and joyful content in all
that was, or might be, beholding in my fetters the very Providence of God
(as it were) and in my captivity His answer to my so oft-repeated prayer;
for now I remembered that with the flood this ship was to sail for Nombre
de Dios, where, safe-dungeoned and secure against my coming lay my
hated foe and deadly enemy, Richard Brandon. And now, in my vain and
self-deluding pride (my heart firm-set on this miserable man, his undoing
and destruction) I cast me down on my knees and babbled forth my passionate
gratitude to Him that is from everlasting to everlasting the God of Mercy,
Love and Forgiveness.
HOW I FOUGHT IN THE DARK WITH ONE POMPEY, A GREAT BLACKAMOOR
I was yet upon my knees when came Job the quartermaster with two men
who, at his command, dragged me to my feet and out upon deck; cursing my
hampering fetters, they tumbled me down the quarter-ladder and so down into
the waist of the ship.
Now as I went I kept my eyes upraised to the serene majesty of the heavens;
the moon rode high amid a glory of stars, and as I looked it seemed I had
never seen them so bright and wonderful, never felt the air so good and
sweet upon my lips.
Being come to the fore-hatchway I checked there, despite my captors'
buffets and curses, to cast a final, long look up, above and round about
me, for I had a sudden uneasy feeling, a dreadful suspicion that once I
descended into the gloom below I never should come forth alive. So I stared
eagerly upon these ever-restless waters, so bright beneath the moon, upon
the white sands of Deliverance Beach, on lofty palmetto and bush-girt cliff
and then, shivering despite all my resolution, I suffered them to drag me
down into that place of shadows.
I remember a sharp, acrid smell, the reek of bilge and thick, mephitic air
as I stumbled on betwixt my captors through this foul-breathing dimness
until a door creaked, yawning suddenly upon a denser blackness, into which
I was thrust so suddenly that I fell, clashing my fetters, and lying thus,
heard the door slammed and bolted.
So here lay I in sweating, breathless expectation of I knew not what, my
ears on the stretch, my manacled hands tight-clenched and every nerve
a-tingle with this dreadful uncertainty. For a great while it seemed I lay
thus, my ears full of strange noises, faint sighings, unchancy rustlings
and a thousand sly, unaccountable sounds that at first caused me direful
apprehensions but which, as I grew more calm, I knew for no more than the
flow of the tide and the working of the vessel's timbers as she strained at
her anchors. All at once I sat up, crouching in the dark, as from somewhere
about me, soft yet plain to hear, came a sound that told me some one was
stealthily drawing the bolts of the door. Rising to my feet I stood,
shackled fists clenched, ready to leap and smite so soon as chance should
offer. Then came a hissing whisper:
"Easy all, brother! Soft it is, comrade! 'Tis me, messmate, old Resolution,
friend, come to loose thy bilboes, for fair is fair. Ha, 'tis plaguey dark,
the pit o' Acheron ain't blacker, where d'ye lay--speak soft for there's
ears a-hearkening very nigh us."
In the dark a hand touched me and then I felt the muzzle of a pistol at my
"No tricks, lad--no running for't if I loose ye--you'll bide here--come
life, come death? Is't agreed?"
"It is!" I whispered. Whereupon and with no more ado, he freed me from my
gyves, making scarcely any sound, despite the dark.
"I'll take these wi' me, friend and--my finger's on trigger."
"Resolution, how am I to die?"
"Black Pompey!" came the hissing whisper.
"Hath Joanna ordered this?"
"Never think it, mate--she's ashore and I swam aboard, having my
"Resolution, a dying man thanks you heartily, purely never, after all, was
there pirate the like o' you for holiness. Could I but find some weapon to
my defence now--a knife, say." In the dark came a griping hand that found
mine and was gone again, but in my grasp was a stout, broad-bladed knife.
"'Let the heathen rage,' saith Holy Writ, so rage it is, says I, only smite
first, brother and smite--hard. And 'ware the starboard scuttle!" Hereafter
was the rustle of his stealthy departure, the soft noise of bolts, and
And now in this pitchy gloom, wondering what and where this scuttle might
be, I crouched, a very wild and desperate creature, peering into the gloom
and starting at every sound; thus presently I heard the scrape of a viol
somewhere beyond the bulkheads that shut me in and therewith a voice that
sang, the words very clear and distinct:
"Oh, Moll she lives in Deptford town,
In Deptford town lives she;
Let maid be white or black or brown.
Still Moll's the lass for me;
Sweet Moll as lives in Deptford town,
Yo-ho, shipmates, for Deptford town,
Tis there as I would be."
Mingled with this singing I thought to hear the heavy thud of an unshod
foot on the planking above my head, and setting my teeth I gripped my knife
in sweating palm.
But now (and to my despair) came the singing again to drown all else,
hearken how I would:
"Come whistle, messmates all.
For a breeze, for a breeze
Come pipe up, messmates all,
For a breeze.
When to Deptford town we've rolled
Wi' our pockets full o' gold;
Then our lasses we will hold
On our knees, on our knees."
Somewhere in the dark was the sudden, thin complaint of a rusty and
unwilling bolt, though if this were to my right or left, above or below
me, I could not discover and my passionate listening was once more vain by
reason of this accursed rant:
"Who will not drink a glass,
Let him drown, let him drown;
Who will not drink a glass,
Let him drown.
Who will not drink a glass
For to toast a pretty lass,
Is no more than fool and ass;
So let him drown, let him drown!"
A sudden glow upon the gloom overhead, a thin line of light that widened
suddenly to a square of blinding radiance and down through the trap came
a lanthorn grasped in a hugeous, black fist and, beyond this, an arm, a
mighty shoulder, two rows of flashing teeth, two eyes that glared here and
there, rolling in horrid fashion; thus much I made out as I sprang and,
grappling this arm, smote upwards with my knife. The lanthorn fell,
clattering, and was extinguished, but beyond the writhing, shapeless thing
that blocked the scuttle, I might, ever and anon, behold a star twinkling
down upon me where I wrestled with this mighty arm that whirled me from my
feet, and swung me, staggering, to and fro as I strove to get home with
my knife at the vast bulk that loomed above me. Once and twice I stabbed
vainly, but my third stroke seemed more successful, for the animal-like
howl he uttered nigh deafened me; then (whether by my efforts or his own,
I know not) down he came upon me headlong, dashing the good knife from my
grasp and whirling me half-stunned against the bulkhead, and as I leaned
there, sick and faint, a hand clapped-to the scuttle. And now in this
dreadful dark I heard a deep and gusty breathing, like that of some
monstrous beast, heard this breathing checked while he listened for me a
stealthy rustling as he felt here and there to discover my whereabouts. But
I stood utterly still, breathless and sweating, with a horror of death at
this great blackamoor's hands, since, what with the palsy of fear by reason
of the loss of my knife, I did not doubt but that this monster would soon
make an end of me and in horrid fashion.
Presently I heard him move again and (judging by the sound) creeping on
hands and knees, therefore as he approached I edged myself silently along
the bulkhead and thus (as I do think) we made the complete circuit of the
place; once it seemed he came upon the lanthorn and dashing it fiercely
aside, paused awhile to listen again, and my heart pounding within me so
that I sweated afresh lest he catch the sound of it. And sometimes I would
hear the soft, slurring whisper his fingers made against deck or bulkhead
where he groped for me, and once a snorting gasp and the crunch of his
murderous knife-point biting into wood and thereafter a hoarse and
outlandish muttering. And ever as I crept thus, moving but when he moved,
I felt before me with my foot, praying that I might discover my knife and,
this in hand, face him and end matters one way or another and be done with
the horror. And whiles we crawled thus round and round within this narrow
space, ever and anon above the stealthy rustle of his movements, above his
stertorous breathing and evil muttering, above the wild throbbing of my
heart rose the wail of the fiddle and the singing:
"Who will not kiss a maid,
Let him hang, let him hang;
Who fears to kiss a maid,
Let him hang.
Who will not kiss a maid
Who of woman is afraid,
Is no better than a shade;
So let him hang, let him hang!"
until this foolish, ranting ditty seemed to mock me, my breath came and
went to it, my heart beat to it; yet even so, I was praying passionately
and this my prayer, viz: That whoso was waiting above us for my death-cry
should not again lift the scuttle lest I be discovered to this man-thing
that crept and crept upon me in the dark. Even as I prayed thus, the
scuttle was raised and, blinded by the sudden glare of a lanthorn, I heard
Job's hoarse voice:
"Below there! Pompey, ahoy! Ha'n't ye done yet an' be curst?"
And suddenly I found in this thing I had so much dreaded the one chance to
my preservation, for I espied the great blackamoor huddled on his knees,
shading his eyes with both hands from the dazzling light and, lying on the
deck before him a long knife.
"Oh, marse mate," he cried, "me done fin' no curs' man here'bouts--"
Then I leaped and kicking the knife out of reach, had him in my grip, my
right hand fast about his throat. I remember his roar, the crash of the
trap as it closed, and after this a grim and desperate scuffling in the
dark; now he had me down, rolling and struggling and now we were up, locked
breast to breast, swaying and staggering, stumbling and slipping, crashing
into bulkheads, panting and groaning; and ever he beat and buffeted me with
mighty fists, but my head bowed low betwixt my arms, took small hurt, while
ever my two hands squeezed and wrenched and twisted at his great, fleshy
throat. I remember an awful gasping that changed to a strangling whistle,
choked to a feeble, hissing whine; his great body grew all suddenly lax,
swaying weakly in my grasp, and then, as I momentarily eased my grip, with
a sudden, mighty effort he broke free. I heard a crash of splintering wood,
felt a rush of sweet, pure air, saw him reel out through the shattered door
and sink upon his knees; but as I sprang towards him he was up and fleeing
along the deck amidships, screaming as he ran.
All about me was a babel of shouts and cries, a rush and trampling of feet,
but I sped all unheeding, my gaze ever upon the loathed, fleeing shape
of this vile blackamoor. I was hard on his heels as he scrambled up the
quarter-ladder and within a yard of him as he gained the deck, while behind
us in the waist were men who ran pell-mell, filling the night with raving
clamour and drunken halloo. Now as I reached the quarter-deck, some one of
these hurled after me a belaying pin and this, catching me on the thigh,
staggered me so that I should have fallen but for the rail; so there clung
I in a smother of sweat and blood while great moon and glittering stars
span dizzily; but crouched before me on his hams, almost within arm's
reach, was this accursed negro who gaped upon me with grinning teeth and
rolled starting eyeballs, his breath coming in great, hoarse gasps. And I
knew great joy to see him in no better case than I, his clothes hanging in
blood-stained tatters so that I might see all the monstrous bulk of him.
Now, as he caught his breath and glared upon me, I suffered my aching body
to droop lower and lower over the rail like one nigh to swooning, yet very
watchful of his every move. Suddenly as we faced each other thus, from the
deck below rose a chorus of confused cries:
"At him, Pompey! Now's ye time, boy! Lay 'im aboard, lad, 'e be
a-swounding! Ha--out wi' his liver, Pompey--at him, he's yourn!"
Heartened by these shouts and moreover seeing how feebly I clutched at the
quarter-rail, the great negro uttered a shrill cry of triumph and leapt at
me; but as he came I sprang to meet his rush and stooping swiftly, caught
him below the knees and in that same moment, straining every nerve, every
muscle and sinew to the uttermost, I rose up and hove him whirling over my
I heard a scream, a scurry of feet, and then the thudding crash of his fall
on the deck below and coming to the rail I leaned down and saw him lie,
his mighty limbs hideously twisted and all about him men who peered and
whispered. But suddenly they found their voices to rage against me, shaking
their fists and brandishing their steel; a pistol flashed and roared and
the bullet hummed by my ear, but standing above them I laughed as a madman
might, jibing at them and daring them to come on how they would, since
indeed death had no terrors for me now. And doubtless steel or shot would
have ended me there and then but for the man Diccon who quelled their
clamour and held them from me by voice and fist:
"Arrest, ye fools--stand by!" he roared. "Yon man be the property o'
Captain Jo--'tis Joanna's man and whoso harms him swings--"
"Aye, but he've murdered Pompey, ain't 'e?" demanded Job.
"Aye, aye--an' so 'e have, for sure!" cried a voice.
"Well an' good--murder's an 'anging matter, ain't it?"
"An' so it be, Job--up wi' him--hang him--hang him!"
"Well an' good!" cried Job again. "'Ang 'im we will, lads, all on us, every
man's fist to the rope--she can't hang us all, d'ye see. You, Diccon, where
be Belvedere; he shall be in it--"
"Safe fuddled wi' rum, surely. Lord, Job, you do be takin' uncommon risks
for a hatful o' guineas--"
So they took me and, all unresisting, I was dragged amidships beneath the
main yard where a noose was for my destruction; and though hanging had
seemed a clean death by contrast with that I had so lately escaped at
the obscene hands of this loathly blackamoor, yet none the less a sick
trembling took me as I felt the rope about my neck, insomuch that I sank to
my knees and closed my eyes.
Kneeling thus and nigh to fainting, I heard a sudden, quick patter of
light-running feet, a gasping sigh and, glancing up, beheld Job before
me, also upon his knees and staring down with wide and awful eyes at an
ever-spreading stain that fouled the bosom of his shirt; and as he knelt
thus, I saw above his stooping head the blue glitter of a long blade that
lightly tapped his brawny neck.
"The noose--here, Diccon, here, yes!"
As one in a dream I felt the rope lifted from me and saw it set about the
neck of Job.
"So! Ready there? Now--heave all!"
I heard the creak of the block, the quick tramp of feet, a strangling cry,
and Job the quartermaster was snatched aloft to kick and writhe and dangle
against the moon.
"Diccon, we have lost our quartermaster and we sail on the flood; you are
quartermaster henceforth, yes. Ha--look--see, my Englishman is sick! Dowse
a bucket o' water over him, then let him be ironed and take him forward to
the fo'castle; he shall serve you all for sport--but no killing, mind."
Thus lay I to be kicked and buffeted and half-drowned; yet when they had
shackled me, cometh the man Diccon to clap me heartily on the shoulder and
after him Resolution to nod at me and blink with his single, twinkling eye:
"Oh, friend," quoth he, "Oh, brother, saw ye ever the like of our Captain
Jo? Had Davy been here to-day he might perchance ha' wrote a psalm to her."
That morning with the flood tide we hove anchor and the _Happy Despatch_
stood out to sea and, as she heeled to the freshening wind, Job's
stiffening body lurched and swayed and twisted from the main yard. And thus
it was I saw the last of my island.
OF BATTLE, MURDER AND RESOLUTION DAY, HIS POINT OF VIEW
And now, nothing heeding my defenceless situation and the further horrors
that might be mine aboard this accursed pirate ship, I nevertheless knew
great content for that, with every plunge and roll of the vessel, I was so
much the nearer Nombre de Dios town where lay prisoned my enemy, Richard
Brandon; thus I made of my sinful lust for vengeance a comfort to my
present miseries, and plotting my enemy's destruction, found therein much
solace and consolation.
I had crept into a sheltered corner and here, my knees drawn up, my back
against one of the weather guns, presently fell a-dozing. I was roused by
a kick to find the ship rolling prodigiously, the air full of spray and a
piping wind, and Captain Belvedere scowling down on me, supporting himself
by grasping a backstay in one hand and flourishing a case-bottle in the
"Ha, 's fish, d'ye live yet?" roared he in drunken frenzy. "Ha'n't Black
Pompey done your business? Why, then--here's for ye!" And uttering a great
oath, he whirled up the bottle to smite; but, rolling in beneath his arm, I
staggered him with a blow of my fettered hands, then (or ever I might avoid
him) he had crushed me beneath his foot: and then Joanna stood fronting
him. Pallid, bare-headed, wild of eye, she glared on him and before this
look he cowered and shrank away.
"Drunken sot!" cried she. "Begone lest I send ye aloft to join yon
carrion!" And she pointed where Job's stiff body plunged and swung and
twisted at the reeling yard-arm.
"Nay, Jo, I--I meant him no harm!" he muttered, and turning obedient to her
gesture, slunk away.
"Ah, Martino," said Joanna, stooping above me, "'twould seem I must be for
ever saving your life to you, yes. Are you not grateful, no?"
"Aye, I am grateful!" quoth I, remembering my enemy.
"Then prove me it!"
"Speak me gently, look kindly on me, for I am sick, Martino, and shall be
worse. I never can abide a rolling ship--'tis this cursed woman's body o'
mine. So to-day am I all woman and yearn for tenderness--and we shall have
more bad weather by the look o' things! Have you enough knowledge to handle
this ship in a storm?"
"'Tis pity," she sighed, "'tis pity! I would hang Belvedere and make
you captain in his room--he wearies me, and would kill me were he man
enough--ah, Mother of Heaven, what a sea!" she cried, clinging to me as a
great wave broke forward, filling the air with hissing spray. "Aid me aft,
Hereupon, seeing her so haggard and faint, and the decks deserted save for
the watch, I did as she bade me as well as I might by reason of my fetters
and the uneasy motion of the ship, and at last (and no small labour) I
brought her into the great cabin or roundhouse under the poop. And now she
would have me bide and talk with her awhile, but this I would by no means
"And why not, Martino?" she questioned in soft, wheedling fashion. "Am I so
hateful to you yet? Wherefore go?"
"Because I had rather lie in my fetters out yonder at the mercy o' wind and
wave!" said I.
Now at this she fell to sudden weeping and, as suddenly, to reviling me
with bitter curses.
"Go then!" cried she, striking me in her fury. "Keep your chains--aye, I
will give ye to the mercy of this rabble crew ... leave me!" The which I
did forthwith and, finding me a sheltered corner, cast myself down there
and fell to hearkening to the rush of the wind and to watching the
awful might of the racing, foam-capped billows. And, beholding these
manifestations of God's majesty and infinite power, of what must I be
thinking but my own small desires and unworthy schemes of vengeance! And
bethinking me of Don Federigo (and him governor of Nombre de Dios) I
began planning how I might use him to my purpose. My mind full of this, I
presently espied the mate, Resolution Day, his laced hat and noble periwig
replaced by a close-fitting seaman's bonnet, making his way across the
heaving deck as only a seaman might (and despite his limp) and as he drew
nearer I hailed and beckoned him.
"Aha, and are ye there, camarado!" said he. "'Tis well, for I am a-seeking
"Tell me, Resolution, when shall we sight Nombre de Dios?"
"Why look now, if this wind holdeth fair, we should fetch up wi' it in some
five days or thereabouts."
"Don Federigo is governor of the town, I think?"
"Verily and so he is. And what then?"
"Where lieth he now?"
"Safe, friend, and secure. You may lay to that, brother!"
"Could you but get me speech with him--"
"Not by no manner o' means whatsoever, _amigo_! And the reason why? It
being agin her orders."
"Is he well?"
"Well-ish, brother--fairly bobbish, all things considered, mate--though not
such a hell-fire, roaring lad o' mettle as yourself, comrade. David slew
Goliath o' Gath wi' a pebble and you broke Black Pompey's back wi' your
naked hands! Here's a thing as liketh me mighty well! Wherefore I grieve to
find ye such an everlasting fool, brother."
"How so, Resolution?"
"When eyes look sweetness--why scowl? When lips woo kisses--wherefore take
a blow instead? When comfort and all manner o' delights be offered--why
choose misery forrard and the bloody rogues o' her fo'castle? For 'tis
there as you be going, mate--aye, verily!" Here he set a silver whistle to
his mouth and blew a shrill blast at which signal came two fellows who, at
his command, dragged me to my feet and so away forward.
Thus true to her word, Joanna banished me from the gilded luxury of cabin
and roundhouse and gave me up to the rogues forward, a wild and lawless
company of divers races and conditions so that they seemed the very scum of
the world, and yet here, in this reeking forecastle, each and every of them
Nor can any words of mine justly paint the wild riot and brutal licence
of this crowded 'tween-deck, foul with the reek of tobacco and a thousand
worse savours, its tiers on tiers of dark and noisome berths where men
snored or thrust forth shaggy heads to rave at and curse each other; its
blotched and narrow table amidships, its rows of battered sea chests, its
loathsome floor; a place of never-ceasing stir and tumult, dim-lighted by
My advent was hailed by an exultant roar and they were all about me, an
evil company in their rage and draggled finery; here were faces scarred by
battles and brutalised by their own misdeeds, this unlovely company now
thrust upon me with pointing fingers, nudging elbows, scowls and mocking
"What now--is he to us, then?" cried one. "Hath Jo sent us her plaything?"
"Aye, lads, and verily!" answered Resolution. "Here's him as she calleth
Martin O; here's him as out-fought Pompey--"
"Aye, aye--remember Pompey!" cried a bedizened rogue pushing towards me,
hand on knife.
"Why, truly, Thomas Ford, remember Pompey, but forget not Job as died so
sudden--in the midst o' life he were in death, were Job! So hands off your
knife, Thomas Ford; Captain Jo sendeth Martin for your sport and what not,
d'ye see, but when he dieth 'tis herself will do the killing!"
Left alone and helpless in my fetters, I stood with bowed head, nothing
heeding them for all their baiting of me, whereupon the man Ford, catching
up a pipkin that chanced handy, cast upon me some vileness or other the
which was the signal for others to do likewise so that I was soon miserably
wet from head to foot and this I endured without complaint. But now they
betook them to tormenting me with all manner of missiles, joying to see me
blench and stagger until, stung to a frenzy of rage and being within reach
of the man Ford (my chiefest tormentor) I sprang upon him and fell to
belabouring him heartily with the chain that swung betwixt my wrists, but
an unseen foot tripped me heavily and ere I could struggle free they were
upon me. But now as they kicked and trampled and buffeted me, I once
again called upon God with a loud voice, and this was the manner of my
"Oh, God of Justice, for the pains I now endure, give to me
vengeance--vengeance, Oh, God, upon mine enemy!"
And hearing this passionate outcry, my tormentors presently drew away from
me, staring on me where I lay and muttering together like men greatly
amazed, and left me in peace awhile.
Very much might I tell of all I underwent at this time, of the shameful
indignities, tricks and deviltries of which I was victim, so that there
were times when I cursed my Maker and all in this world save only my
miserable self--I, that by reason of my hate and vengeful pursuit of my
enemy, had surely brought all these evils on my own head. Yet every shame
I endured, every pain I suffered did but nerve me anew to this long-sought
vengeance on him that (in my blind folly) I cursed as the author of these
But indeed little gust have I to write of these things; moreover I began
to fear that my narrative grow to inordinate length, so will I incontinent
pass on to that time when came the quartermaster Diccon with Resolution Day
to deliver me from my hateful prison.
And joy unspeakable was it to breathe the sweet, clean air, to hear the
piping song of the wind and the hiss of the tumbling billows, to feel the
lift and roll of the great ship as she ploughed her course through seas
blue as any sapphire; though indeed small leisure had I for the glory of it
all, as they hurried me aft.
"What now?" I enquired hopelessly. "What new deviltries have ye in store?"
"'Tis Jo!" answered Diccon. "'Tis Joanna, my bully!" and here he leered and
nodded; "Joanna is sick and groweth womanish--"
"And look'ee now, friend," quoth Resolution, clapping me on the back,
"you'll mind 'twas old Resolution as was your stay and comfort by means of
a knife i' the matter o' the heathen Pompey, comrade? You'll not forget old
"And me," quoth Diccon, patting my other shoulder. "I stood your friend so
much as I might--aye, did I!"
Thus talked they, first in one ear then in the other, picturing to my
imagination favours done me, real or imagined, until, to hear them, they
might have been my guardian angels; while I went between them silent and
mighty sullen, casting about in my mind as to what all this should portend.
So they brought me aft to that gilded cabin the which gave upon the
stern-gallery; and here, outstretched on downy cushions and covered by a
rich embroidery, lay Joanna.
Perceiving me, she raised herself languidly and motioned the others to be
gone, whereupon they went out, closing the door; whereupon she spake, quick
"I have sent for you because I am weak with my sickness, Martino, faint and
"And must I weep therefore?" said I, and glancing from her haggard face I
beheld a small, ivory-hilted dagger on the table at her elbow.
"Ah, mercy of God--how the ship rolls!" she moaned feebly and then burst
forth into cursings and passionate revilings of ship and wind and sea until
these futile ravings were hushed for lack of breath; anon she fell to
sighing and with many wistful looks, but finding me all unheeding, fell
foul of me therefore:
"Ha, scowl, beast--scowl--this becomes thy surly visage. I shall not know
thee else! Didst ever smile in all thy sullen days or speak me gentle word
or kindly? Never to me, oh, never to me! Will ye not spare a look? Will ye
not speak--have ye no word to my comfort?"
"Why seek such of me?" I demanded bitterly. "I have endured much of shame
and evil at your will--"
"Ah, fool," sighed she, "had you but sent to me--one word--and I had freed
you ere this! And I have delivered you at last because I am sick and
weak--a woman and lonely--"
"Why, there be rogues for you a-plenty hereabouts shall fit ye better than
"Oh, 'tis a foul tongue yours, Martino!"
"Why, then, give me a boat, cast me adrift and be done with me."
"Ah, no, I would not you should die yet--"
"Mayhap you will torture me a little more first."
"'Tis for you to choose! Oh, Martino," she cried; "will you not be my
"Never in this world!"
At this, and all at once, she was weeping.
"Ah, but you are cruel!" she sobbed, looking up at me through her
tears. "Have you no pity for one hath never known aught of true love
or gentleness? Wilt not forget past scores and strive to love me--some
Now hearkening to her piteous accents, beholding her thus transfigured, her
tear-wet eyes, the pitiful tremor of her vivid lips and all the pleading
humility of her, I was beyond all thought amazed.
"Surely," said I, "surely you are the strangest woman God ever made--"
"Why then," said she, smiling through her tears, "since God made me, then
surely--ah, surely is there something in me worthy your love?"
"Love?" quoth I, frowning and clenching my shackled hands. "'Tis an
emptiness--I am done with the folly henceforth--"
"Ah--ah ... and what of your Joan--your Damaris?" she questioned eagerly.
"Do you not love her--no?"
"No!" said I fiercely. "My life holdeth but one purpose--"
"What purpose, Martino, what?"
"'Tis no matter!" said I, and question me how she might I would say no
more, whereupon she importuned me with more talk of love and the like folly
until, finding me heedless alike of her tears and pleadings, she turned on
me in sudden fury, vowing she would have me dragged back to the hell of the
forecastle there and then.
"I'll shame your cursed pride," cried she. "You shall be rove to a gun and
flayed with whips--"
But here, reaching forward or ever she might stay me, I caught up the
"Ah!" said she softly, staring where it glittered in my shackled hand.
"Would you kill me! Come then, death have I never feared--strike, _Martino
mio_!" and she proffered her white bosom to the blow; but I laughed in
"Silly wench," said I, "this steel is not for you! Call in your rogues and
watch me blood a few--"
"Ah, damned coward," she cried, "ye dare not slay me lest Belvedere torment
ye to death--'tis your own vile carcase you do think of!"
At this I did but laugh anew, whereat, falling to pallid fury, she sprang
upon me, smiting with passionate, small fists, besetting me so close that
I cowered and shrank back lest she impale herself on the dagger I grasped.
But presently being wearied she turned away, then staggered as the ship
rolled to a great sea, and would have fallen but for me. Suddenly, as she
leaned upon me thus, her dark head pillowed on my breast, she reached up
and clasped her hands about my neck and with head yet hid against me burst
into a storm of fierce sobbing. Staring down at this bowed head, feeling
the pleading passion of these vital, soft-clasping hands and shaken by her
heart-bursting sobs, I grew swiftly abashed and discomfited and let the
dagger fall and lie unheeded.
"Ah, Martino," said she at last, her voice muffled in my breast. "Surely
nought is there in all this wretched world so desolate as a loveless woman!
Can you not--pity me--a little, yes?"
"Aye, I do pity you!" quoth I, on impulse.
"And pity is kin to love, Martino! And I can be patient, patient, yes!"
"'Twere vain!" said I. At this she loosed me and uttering a desolate cry,
cast herself face down upon her couch.
"Be yourself," said I, spurning the dagger into a corner; "rather would I
have your scorn and hate than tears--"
"You have," said she, never stirring. "I do scorn you greatly, hate you
mightily, despise you infinitely--yet is my love greater than all--"
Suddenly she started to an elbow, dashing away her tears, fierce-eyed,
grim-lipped, all womanly tenderness gone, as from the deck above rose the
hoarse roar of a speaking trumpet and the running of feet; and now was loud
rapping on the door that, opening, disclosed Diccon, the quartermaster.
"By your leave, Captain Jo," cried he, "but your luck's wi' us--aye, is it!
A fine large ship a-plying to wind'ard of us--"
In a moment Joanna was on her feet and casting a boat-cloak about herself
hasted out of the cabin, bidding Diccon bring me along.
The wind had fallen light though the seas yet ran high; and now being come
to the lofty poop, I might behold our crowded decks where was mighty bustle
and to-do, casting loose the guns, getting up shot and powder, a-setting
out of half-pikes, swords, pistols and the like with a prodigious coming
and going; a heaving and yo-ho-ing with shouts and boisterous laughter,
whiles ever and anon grimy hands pointed and all heads were turned in the
one direction where, far away across the foam-flecked billows, was a speck
that I knew for a vessel.
And beholding these pirate rogues, how joyously they laboured, with what
lusty cheers they greeted Joanna and clambered aloft upon swaying yards to
get more sail on the ship obedient to her shrill commands, I knew a great
pity for this ship we were pursuing and a passionate desire that she might
yet escape us. I was yet straining my eyes towards the chase and grieving
for the poor souls aboard her, when, at word from Joanna, I was seized and
fast bound to a ringbolt.
Scarce was this done than Joanna uttered a groan and, clapping her hand to
her head, called out for Resolution, and with his assistance got her down
to the quarter-deck.
By afternoon the sea was well-nigh calm and the chase so close that we
might behold her plainly enough and the people on her decks. Her topmasts
were gone, doubtless in the great storm, and indeed a poor, battered thing
she looked as she rolled to the long, oily swell. All at once, out from her
main broke the golden banner of Spain, whereupon rose fierce outcries from
our rogues; then above the clamour rose the voice of Diccon:
"Shout, lads--shout for Roger, give tongue to Jolly Roger!" and looking
where he pointed with glittering cutlass, I beheld that hideous flag that
is hated by all honest mariners.
And now began a fight that yet indeed was no fight, for seeing we had the
range of them whereas their shot fell pitifully short, Belvedere kept away
and presently let fly at them with every heavy gun that bore, and, as
the smoke thinned, I saw her foremast totter and fall, and her high,
weather-beaten side sorely splintered by our shot. Having emptied her great
guns to larboard the _Happy Despatch_ went about and thundered death and
destruction against them with her starboard broadside and they powerless
to annoy us any way in return. And thus did we batter them with our great
pieces, keeping ever out of their reach, so that none of all their missiles
came aboard us, until they, poor souls, seeing their case altogether
hopeless, were fain to cry us quarter. Hereupon, we stood towards them, and
as we approached I could behold the havoc our great shot had wrought aboard
The enemy having yielded to our mercy and struck their flag, we ceased our
fire, and thinking the worst, over and done, I watched where Belvedere
conned the ship with voice and gesture and the crew, mighty quick and
dexterous in obedience, proved themselves prime sailor-men, despite their
loose and riotous ways, so that, coming down upon the enemy, we presently
fell aboard of them by the fore-chains; whereupon up scrambled old
Resolution, sword in hand, first of any man (despite his lameness) and with
a cry of "Boarders away!" sprang down upon the Spaniard's blood-spattered
deck and his powder-blackened rogues leaping and hallooing on his heels.
And now from these poor, deluded souls who had cast themselves upon our
mercy rose sudden awful shrieks and cries hateful to be heard as they fled
hither and thither about their littered decks before the pitiless steel
that hacked and thrust and smote. Shivering and sweating, I must needs
watch this thing done until, grown faint and sick, I bowed my face that
I might see no more. Gradually these distressful sounds grew weaker and
weaker, and dying away at last, were lost in the fierce laughter and
jubilant shouting of their murderers, where they fell to the work of
But hearing sudden roar of alarm, I looked up to see the Spanish ship was
going down rapidly by the head, whereupon was wild uproar and panic, some
of our rogues cutting away at the grapples even before their comrades had
scrambled back to safety; so was strife amongst them and confusion worse
confounded. The last man was barely aboard than our yards were braced round
and we stood away clear of this sinking ship. Now presently uproar broke
out anew and looking whence it proceeded, I beheld four Spaniards (who it
seemed had leapt aboard us unnoticed in the press), and these miserable
wretches methought would be torn in pieces. But thither swaggered
Belvedere, flourishing his pistols and ordering his rogues back, and falls
to questioning these prisoners and though I could not hear, I saw how
they cast themselves upon their knees, with hands upraised to heaven,
supplicating his mercy. He stood with arms folded, nodding his head now and
then as he listened, so that I began to have some hopes that he would spare
them; but all at once he gestured with his arms, whereon was a great
gust of laughter and cheering, and divers men began rigging a wide plank
out-board from the gangway amidships, whiles others hasted to pinion these
still supplicating wretches. This done, they seized upon one, and hoisting
him up on the plank with his face to the sea, betook them to pricking
him with sword and pike, thus goading him to walk to his death. So this
miserable, doomed man crept out along the plank, whimpering pleas for mercy
to the murderers behind him and prayers for mercy to the God above him,
until he was come to the plank's end and cowered there, raising and
lowering his bound hands in his agony while he gazed down into the
merciless sea that was to engulf him. All at once he stood erect, his
fettered hands upraised to heaven, and then with a piteous, wailing cry he
plunged down to his death and vanished 'mid the surge; once he came up,
struggling and gasping, ere he was swept away in the race of the tide.
Now hereupon I cast myself on my knees and hiding my face in my fettered
hands, fell to a passion of prayer for the soul of this unknown man. And as
I prayed, I heard yet other lamentable outcries, followed in due season by
the hollow plunge of falling bodies; and so perished these four miserable
I was yet upon my knees when I felt a hand upon my shoulder and the touch
(for a wonder) was kindly, and raising my head I found Resolution Day
looking down on me with his solitary, bright eye and his grim lips
up-curling to friendly smile.
"So perish all Papishers, Romanists, Inquisitioners, and especially
"'Twas cruel and bloody murder!" quoth I, scowling up at him.
"Why, perceive me now, _amigo_, let us reason together, _camarado_--thus
now it all dependeth upon the point o' view; these were Papishers and evil
men, regarding which Davy sayeth i' the Psalms, 'I will root 'em out,' says
he; why, root it is! says I--and look'ee, brother, I have done a lot o'
rooting hitherto and shall do more yet, as I pray. As to the fight now,
mate, as to the fight, 'twas noble fight--pretty work, and the ship well
handled, as you must allow, _camarado_!"
"Call it rather brutal butchery!" said I fiercely.
"Aye, there it is again," quoth he; "it all lieth in the point o' view! Now
in my view was my brother screaming amid crackling flames and a fair young
woman in her living tomb, who screamed for mercy and found none. 'Tis all
in the point o' view!" he repeated, smiling down at a great gout of blood
that blotched the skirt of his laced coat.
"And I say 'tis foul murder in the sight of God and man!" I cried.
"Ha, will ye squeak, rat!" quoth Belvedere, towering over me, where I
crouched upon my knees. "'S fish, will ye yap, then, puppy-dog?"
"Aye--and bite!" quoth I, aiming a futile blow at him with my shackled
fists. "Give me one hand free and I'd choke the beastly soul out o' ye and
heave your foul carcase to the fishes--"
Now at this he swore a great oath and whipped pistol from belt, but as he
did so Resolution stepped betwixt us.
"Put up, Belvedere, put up!" said he in soothing tone. "No shooting,
stabbing nor maiming till _she_ gives the word, Captain--"
"Curse her for a--" Resolution's long arm shot out and his knotted fingers
plunged and buried themselves in Belvedere's bull-throat, choking the word
on his lips.
"Belay, Captain! Avast, Belvedere! I am one as knew her when she was
innocent child, so easy all's the word, Belvedere." Having said which,
Resolution relaxed his grip and Belvedere staggered back, gasping, and with
murder glaring in his eyes. But the left hand of Resolution Day was hidden
in his great side pocket whose suspicious bulge betrayed the weapon there,
perceiving which Belvedere, speaking no word, turned and swaggered away.
Now seating himself upon the gun beside me, Resolution drew forth from that
same pocket his small Bible that fell open on his knee at an oft-studied
"Now regarding the point o' view, friend," quoth he, "touching upon the
death o' the evil-doers, of the blood of a righteous man's enemies--hearken
now to the words o' Davy."
HOW WE FOUGHT AN ENGLISH SHIP
For the days immediately following I saw nothing of Joanna but learned from
Resolution and Diccon that her sickness had increased upon her.
"'Tis her soul, I doubt!" quoth Diccon, shaking his head. "'Tis too great
for her body--'tis giant soul and her but a woman--so doth strong soul
overcome weak body, and small wonder, say I?"
"Nay, Diccon," said Resolution, his bright eye sweeping the hazy distance,
"'tis but that she refuseth her vittles, and since 'man cannot live by
bread alone' neither may woman, and 'tis more than bread she needeth and
so she rageth and thus, like unto Peter's wife's mother, lieth sick of a
fever." Here for a brief moment his bright eye rested on me and he scowled
as he turned to limp the narrow deck.
Much might I narrate of the divers hazards of battle and storm that befell
us at this time, and more of the goodly ships pillaged and scuttled and
their miserable crews with them, by Belvedere and his bloody rogues; of
prayers for mercy mocked at, of the agonised screams of dying men, of flame
and destruction and death in many hideous shapes. All of the which nameless
evils I must perforce behold since this Belvedere that shrank at Joanna's
mere look, freed of her presence, took joyous advantage to torment me with
the sight of such horrors, such devil's work as shrieked to heaven for
vengeance; insomuch that Diccon and divers others could ill-stomach it at
last and even grim Resolution would have no more.
Now although Belvedere and his rogues had taken great store of treasure
with small hurt to themselves, yet must they growl and curse their fortune,
since in none of the captured vessels had they taken any women, and never
was the cry of "Sail, ho!" than all men grew eager for chase and attack;
and thus this accursed ship _Happy Despatch_ stood on, day after day.
Much will I leave untold by reason of the horror of it, and moreover my
space is short for all I have set myself to narrate, viz: how and in what
manner I came at last to my vengeance and what profit I had therein. So
will I pass on to that day when, being in the latitude of the great and
fair island of Hispaniola, we descried a ship bearing westerly.
Hereupon (since greed is never satisfied) all men were vociferous for chase
and attack, and Belvedere agreeing, we hauled our wind accordingly and
stood after her with every sail we could carry.
The _Happy Despatch_ was a great ship of some forty guns besides such
smaller pieces as minions, patereros and the like; she was moreover a
notable good sailer and as the hours passed it was manifest we were fast
overhauling our quarry. And very pitiful was it to see her crowding sail
away from us, to behold her (as it were) straining every nerve to escape
the horrors in store. Twice she altered her course and twice we did the
like, fetching ever nearer until it seemed she was doomed to share the
bloody fate of so many others. By noon we were so close that she was plain
to see, a middling-size ship, her paint blistered, her gilding tarnished as
by a long voyage, and though very taut and trim as to spars and rigging,
a heavy-sailing ship and sluggish. A poor thing indeed to cope with such
powerful vessel as this _Happy Despatch_, for as we closed in I could count
no more than six guns in the whole length of her. As to crew she might have
been deserted for all I saw of them, save one man who paced her lofty poop,
a smallish man in great wig and befeathered hat and in his fist a sword
prodigiously long in the blade, which sword he flourished whereat (as it
were a signal) out from her mizzen wafted the banner of Portugal, and
immediately she opened fire on us from her stern-chase guns. But their
shooting was so indifferent and artillery so pitiful that their shot fell
far short of us. Thus my heart grieved mightily for her as with our guns
run out and crew roaring and eager we bore down to her destruction.
Now all at once, as I watched this unhappy ship, I caught my breath and
sank weakly to my knees as, despite the distance and plain to see, upon
her high poop came a woman, hooded and cloaked, who stood gazing earnestly
towards us. Other eyes had noticed her also, for up from our crowded decks
rose a hum, an evil murmur that swelled to a cry fierce, inarticulate,
bestial, whiles all eyes glared upon that slender, shapely form; presently
amid this ravening clamour I distinguished words:
"Oh, a woman! Aha--women! Hold your fire, lads--no shooting; we want 'em
all alive! Easy all, bullies--nary a gun, mates--we'll lay 'em 'longside
and board--Aye, aye--board it is!"
Now being on my knees, I began to whisper in passionate prayer until,
roused by a shambling step, I glanced up to find Resolution Day beside me.
"What, d'ye pray, brother? 'Tis excellent well!" Said he, setting a
musquetoon ready to hand and glancing at the primings of his pistols. "Pray
unceasing, friend, plague the Throne wi' petitions, comrade, and a word or
so on behalf of old Resolution ere the battle joins, for there's--"
"I pray God utterly destroy this accursed ship and all aboard her!" I
"And do ye so?" said he, setting the pistols in his belt. "Why, then, 'tis
as well you're safe i' your bilboes, _amigo_, and as to your blasphemous
praying, I will offset it wi' prayerful counterblast--Ha, by my deathless
soul--what's doing yonder?" he cried, and leant to peer across at the
chase, and well he might. For suddenly (and marvellous to behold) this ship
that had sailed so heavily seemed to throw off her sluggishness and, taking
on new life, to bound forward; her decks, hitherto deserted, grew alive
with men who leapt to loose and haul at brace and rope and, coming about,
she stood towards us and right athwart our course. So sudden had been this
manoeuvre and so wholly unexpected that all men it seemed could but stare
in stupefied amaze.
"Ha!" cried Resolution, smiting fist on the rail before him. "Tricked,
by hookey! She's been towing a sea anchor! Below there!" he hailed.
"Belvedere, ahoy--go about, or she'll rake us--"
And now came Belvedere's voice in fierce and shrill alarm:
"Down wi' your helm--down! Let go weather braces, jump, ye dogs, jump!"
I heard the answering tramp of feet, the rattle and creak of the yards as
they swung and a great flapping of canvas as the _Happy Despatch_ came up
into the wind; but watching where our adversary bore down upon us, I beheld
her six guns suddenly multiplied and (or ever we might bring our broadside
to bear) from these gaping muzzles leapt smoke and roaring flame, and we
were smitten with a hurricane of shot that swept us from stem to stern.
Dazed, deafened, half-stunned, I crouched in the shelter of the mizzen
mast, aware of shrieks and cries and the crash of falling spars, nor moved
I for a space; lifting my head at last, I beheld on the littered decks
below huddled figures that lay strangely twisted, that writhed or crawled.
Then came the hoarse roar of a speaking trumpet and I saw Resolution, his
face a smother of blood, where he leaned hard by across the quarter-rail.
"Stand to't, my bullies!" he roared, and his voice had never sounded so
jovial. "Clear the guns, baw-cocky boys; 'tis our turn next--but stand by
till she comes about--"
From the companion below came one running, eyes wild, mouth agape, and I
recognised the man Ford who had been my chief persecutor in the forecastle.
"What now, lad--what now?" demanded Resolution, mopping at his bloody face.
"Death!" gasped Ford. "There be dead men a-lay-ing forward--dead,
"Likely enough, John Ford, and there'll be dead men a-laying aft if ye're
not back to your gun and lively, d'ye see?" But the fellow, gasping again,
fell to his knees, whereupon Resolution smote him over the head with his
speaking trumpet and tumbled him down the ladder.
"Look'ee here," quoth he, scowling on me, "this all cometh along o' your
ill-praying us, for prayer is potent, as I know, which was not brotherly in
you, Martin O, not brotherly nor yet friendly!" So saying, he squatted on
the gun beside me and sought to staunch the splinter-gash in his brow; but
seeing how ill he set about it, I proffered to do it for him (and despite
my shackles), whereupon he gave me the scarf and knelt that I might come
at his hurt the better; and being thus on his knees, he began to pray in a
loud, strong voice:
"Lord God o' battles, close up Thine ear, hearken to and regard not the
unseemly praying of this mail Martin that hath not the just point o' view,
seeing through a glass darkly. Yonder lieth the enemy, Lord, Thine and
mine, wherefore let 'em be rooted out and utterly destroyed; for if these
be Portingales and Papishers--if--ha--if--?" Resolution ceased his prayer
and glancing up, pointed with stabbing finger: "Yon ship's no more
Portingale than I am--look, friend, look!"
Now glancing whither he would have me, I saw two things: first, that the
_Happy Despatch_ had turned tail and second that our pursuers bore at her
main the English flag; beholding which, a great joy welled up within me so
that I had much ado to keep from shouting outright.
"English!" quoth Resolution. "And a fighting ship--so fight we must, unless
we win clear!"
"Ha, will ye run then?" cried I in bitter scorn.
"With might and main, friend. We are a pirate, d'ye see, w' all to lose and
nought to gain, and then 'tis but a fool as fighteth out o' season!"
Even as he spoke the English ship yawed and let fly at us with her
fore-chase and mingled with their roar was the sharp crack of parting
timbers and down came our main-topmast.
"Why, so be it!" quoth Resolution, scowling up at the flapping ruin where
it hung. "Very well, 'tis a smooth sea and a fighting wind, so shall you
ha' your bellyful o' battle now, friend, for yonder cometh Joanna at last!"
And great wonder was it to behold how the mere sight of her heartened our
sullen rogues, to hear with what howls of joy they welcomed her as she
paced daintily across the littered deck with her quick glance now aloft,
now upon our determined foe.
"Ha, 'tis so--'tis our Jo--our luck! Shout for Cap'n Jo and the luck o' the
And now at her rapid commands from chaos came order, the decks were
cleared, and, despite wrecked topmast, round swung the _Happy Despatch_
until her broadside bore upon the English ship. Even then Joanna waited,
every eye fixed on her where she lolled, hand on hip, watching the approach
of our adversary. Suddenly she gestured with her arm and immediately the
whole fabric of the ship leapt and quivered to the deafening roar of her
guns; then, as the smoke cleared, I saw the enemy's foreyard was gone and
her sides streaked and splintered by our shot, and from our decks rose
shouts of fierce exultation, drowned in the answering thunder of their
starboard broadside, the hiss of their shot all round about us, the crackle
of riven woodwork, the vicious whirr of flying splinters, wails and screams
and wild cheering.
And thus began a battle surely as desperate as ever was fought and which
indeed no poor words of mine may justly describe. The enemy lay to windward
and little enough could I see by reason of the dense smoke that enveloped
us, a stifling, sulphurous cloud that drifted aboard us ever more thick
as the fight waxed, a choking mist full of blurred shapes, dim forms that
flitted by and vanished spectre-like, a rolling mystery whence came all
manner of cries, piercing screams and shrill wailings dreadful to hear,
while the deck beneath me, the air about me reeled and quivered to the
never-ceasing thunder of artillery. But ever and anon, through some rent
in this smoky curtain, I might catch a glimpse of the English ship, her
shot-scarred side and rent sails, or the grim havoc of our own decks. And
amidst it all, and hard beside me where I crouched in the shelter of the
mizzenmast, I beheld Resolution Day limping to and fro, jovial of voice,
cheering his sweating, powder-grimed gun-crews with word and hand. Suddenly
I was aware of Joanna beside me, gay and debonnaire but ghastly pale.
"Hola, Martino!" cried she. "D'ye live yet? 'Tis well. If we die to-day we
die together, and where a properer death or one more fitting for such as
you and I, for am I killed first, Resolution shall send you after me to
bear me company, yes."
So saying, she smiled and nodded and turned to summon Resolution, who came
in limping haste.
"What, are ye hurt, Jo?" cried he, peering. "Ha, Joanna lass, are ye hit
"A little, yes!" said she, and staggering against the mast leaned there as
if faint, yet casting a swift, furtive glance over her shoulder. "But death
cometh behind me, Resolution, and my pistol's gone and yours both empty--"
Now glancing whither she looked, I saw Captain Belvedere come bounding up
the ladder, cutlass in one hand and pistol in the other.
"Are ye there, Jo, are ye there?" he cried and stood to scowl on her.
"Resolution," said she, drooping against the mast, "fight me the ship--"
"And what o' me?" snarled Belvedere.
"You?" cried she. "Ah--bah!" and turning, she spat at him and, screaming,
fell headlong as his pistol flashed. But over her prostrate form leapt
Resolution and there, while the battle roared about them, I watched as,
with steel that crashed unheard in that raging uproar, they smote and
parried and thrust until an eddying smoke-cloud blotted them from my view.
Now fain would I have come at Joanna where she lay, yet might not for my
bonds, although she was so near; suddenly as I watched her (and struggling
thus vainly to reach her) I saw she was watching me.
"And would you aid your poor Joanna, yes?" she questioned faintly.
"'Twas so my thought--"
"Because I am dying, Martino? Doth this grieve you?"
"You are over-young to die!"
"And my life hath been very hard and cruel! Would you kiss a dying woman
an' she might creep to your arms, Martino?"
Slowly and painfully she dragged herself within my reach and, beholding the
twisted agony of her look, reading the piteous supplication in her eyes,
I stooped to kiss the pale brow she lifted to my lips and--felt two arms
about me vigorous and strong and under mine the quivering passion of her
mouth; then she had loosed me and was before me on her knees, flushed and
tremulous as any simple maid.
I was yet gazing on her in dumb and stark amaze, when from somewhere
hard by a man cried out in wild and awful fashion, and as this agonised
screaming swelled upon the air, Joanna rose up to her feet and stood
transfigured, her eyes fierce and wild, her clenched teeth agleam 'twixt
curling lips; and presently through the swirling smoke limped Resolution
Day, a dreadful, bedabbled figure, who, beholding Joanna on her feet,
flourished a dripping blade and panted exultant.
"He is dead?" she questioned.
"Verily and thoroughly!" said Resolution, wringing blood from his beruffled
shirt sleeve. "And a moist end he made on't. But thee, Joanna, I grieved
thee surely dead--"
"Nay, I screamed and dropped in time, but--hark, the Englishman's fire
is ceasing and see, Resolution--look yonder!" and she pointed where our
antagonist, sore battered in hull and spars, was staggering out of the
And now in place of roaring battle was sudden hush, yet a quietude this,
troubled by thin cryings, waitings and the like distressful sounds; and
the smoke lifting showed something of the havoc about us, viz: our riven
bulwarks, the tangled confusion of shattered spars, ropes and fallen
gear, the still and awful shapes that cumbered the spattered decks, more
especially about the smoking guns where leaned their wearied crews, a
blood-stained, powder-grimed company, cheering fitfully as they watched the
English ship creeping away from us.
To us presently cometh Diccon, his blackened face streaked with sweat,
hoarse-voiced but hearty:
"Aha, Captain Jo--your luck's wi' us as ever! Yon curst craft hath her
bellyful at last, aye, has she!"
"I doubt!" quoth Resolution, shaking his head, whiles Joanna, leaning
against the mast, pointed feebly and I noticed her sleeve was soaked with
blood and her speech dull and indistinct:
"Resolution is i' the--right--see!"
And sure enough the English ship, having fetched ahead of us and beyond
range of our broadside guns, had hauled her wind and now lay to, her people
mighty busy making good their damage alow and aloft, stopping shot-holes,
knotting and splicing their gear, etc. Hereupon Diccon falls to a passion
of vain oaths, Resolution to quoting Psalms and Joanna, sighing, slips
suddenly to the deck and lies a-swoon. In a moment Resolution was on his
knees beside her.
"Water, Diccon, water!" said he. "The lads must never see her thus!" So
Diccon fetched the water and between them they contrived to get Joanna to
her feet, and standing thus supported by their arms, she must needs use her
first breath to curse her weak woman's body:
"And our mainmast is shot through at the cap--we must wear ship or 'twill
go! Veer, Resolution, wear ship and man the larboard guns ... they are cool
... I must go tend my hurt--a curst on't! Wear ship and fight, Resolution,
fight--to the last!"
So saying, she put by their hold and (albeit she stumbled for very
weakness) nevertheless contrived to descend the quarter-ladder and wave
cheery greeting to the roar of acclaim that welcomed her.
"And there's for ye!" quoth Resolution. "Never was such hugeous great
spirit in man's body or woman's body afore, neither in this world or any
other--no, not even Davy at Adullam, by hookey! Down to your guns, Diccon
lad, and cheerily, for it looks as we shall have some pretty fighting,
But at the hoarse roar of Resolution's speaking trumpet was stir and
clamorous outcry from the battle-wearied crew who came aft in a body.
"Oho, Belvedere!" they shouted, "Us ha' fought as long as men may, and now
"Fight again, bullies, and cheerily!" roared Resolution. At this the uproar
grew; pistols and muskets were brandished.
"We ha' fought enough! 'Tis time to square away and run for't--aye,
aye--what saith Belvedere, Belvedere be our Cap'n--we want Belvedere!"
"Why then, take him, Bullies, take him and willing!" cried Resolution;
then stooping (and with incredible strength) up to the quarter-railing he
hoisted that awful, mutilated thing that had once been Captain Belvedere
and hove it over to thud down among them on the deck below. "Eye him over,
lads!" quoth Resolution. "View him well, bawcock boys! I made sure work,
d'ye see, though scarce so complete as the heathen Pompey might ha' done,
but 'tis a very thoroughly dead rogue, you'll allow. And I killed him
because he would ha' murdered our Joanna, our luck--and because he was for
yielding us up, you and me, to yon ship that is death for us--for look'ee,
there is never a ship on the Main will grant quarter or show mercy for we;
'tis noose and tar and gibbet for every one on us, d'ye see? So fight,
bully boys, fight for a chance o' life and happy days--here stand I to
fight wi' you and Diccon 'twixt decks and Captain Jo everywhere. We beat
off you Englishman once and so we will again. So fight it is, comrades all,
and a cheer for Captain Jo--ha, Joanna!"
Cheer they did and (like the desperate rogues they were) back they went,
some to their reeking guns, others to splice running and standing rigging,
to secure our tottering mainmast and to clear the littered decks; overboard
alike went broken gear and dead comrade. Then, with every man at his
quarters, with port fires burning, drums beating, black flag flaunting
aloft, round swung the _Happy Despatch_ to face once more her indomitable
foe (since she might not fly) and to fight for her very life.
So once again was smoke and flame and roaring battle; broadside for
broadside we fought them until night fell, a night of horror lit by the
quivering red glare of the guns, the vivid flash of pistol and musket
and the pale flicker of the battle lanthorns. And presently the moon was
casting her placid beam upon this hell of destruction and death, whereas I
lay, famished with hunger and thirst, staring up at her pale serenity with
weary, swooning eyes, scarce heeding the raving tumult about me.
I remember a sudden, rending crash, a stunning shock and all things were
blotted out awhile.
TELLETH HOW THE FIGHT ENDED
When sight returned to me at last, I was yet staring up at the moon, but
now she had climbed the zenith and looked down on me through a dense maze,
a thicket of close-twining branches (as it were) whose density troubled me
mightily. But in a little I saw that these twining branches were verily a
mass of ropes and cordage, a twisted tangle that hung above me yet crushed
me not by reason of a squat column that rose nearby, and staring on this
column I presently knew it for the shattered stump of the mizzenmast. For a
great while I lay staring on this (being yet much dazed) and thus gradually
became aware that the guns had fallen silent; instead of their thunderous
roar was a faint clamour, hoarse, inarticulate, and very far away. I was
yet wondering dreamily and pondering this when I made the further discovery
that by some miraculous chance the chain which had joined my fettered
wrists was broken in sunder and I was free. Nevertheless I lay awhile
blinking drowsily up at the moon until at last, impelled by my raging
thirst, I got to my knees (though with strange reluctance) and strove to
win clear from the tangle of ropes that encompassed me; in the which labour
I came upon the body of a dead man and beyond this, yet another. Howbeit I
was out of this maze at last and rising to my feet, found the deck to heave
oddly 'neath my tread, and so (like one walking in a dream) came stumbling
to the quarter-ladder and paused there awhile to lean against the
splintered rail and to clasp my aching head, for I was still greatly
bemused and my body mighty stiff and painful.
Looking up after some while I saw the _Happy Despatch_ lay a helpless
wreck, her main and mizzenmasts shot away and her shattered hull fast
locked in close conflict with her indomitable foe. The English ship had
run us aboard at the fore-chains and as the two vessels, fast grappled
together, swung to the gentle swell, the moon glinted on the play of
vicious steel where the fight raged upon our forecastle. Mightily heartened
by this, I strove to shake off this strange lethargy that enthralled me and
looked about for some weapon, but finding none, got me down the ladder (and
marvellous clumsy about it) and reaching; the deck stumbled more than once
over stiffening forms that sprawled across my way. Here and there a battle
lanthorn yet glimmered, casting its uncertain beam on writhen legs, on
wide-tossed arms and shapes that seemed to stir in the gloom; and beholding
so many dead, I marvelled to find myself thus unharmed, though, as I
traversed this littered deck, its ghastliness dim-lit by these flickering
lanthorns and the moon's unearthly radiance, it seemed more than ever that
I walked within a dream, whiles the battle clamoured ever more loud. Once
I paused to twist a boarding-axe from stiffening fingers, and, being come
into the waist of the ship, found myself beside the main hatchway and
leaned there to stare up at the reeling fray on the forecastle where pike
darted, axe whirled, sword smote and the battle roared amain in angry
summons. But as I turned obedient to get me into this desperate fray, I
heard a low and feverish muttering and following this evil sound came upon
one who lay amid the wreckage of a gun, and bending above the man knew him
for Diccon the quartermaster.
"How now, Diccon?" I questioned, and wondered to hear my voice so strange
"Dying!" said he. "Dying--aye, am I! And wi' two thousand doubloons hid
away as I shall ne'er ha' the spending on--oh, for a mouthful o' water--two
thousand--a pike-thrust i' the midriff is an--ill thing yet--'tis better
than--noose and tar and gibbet--yet 'tis hard to die wi' two thousand
doubloons unspent--oh, lad, I parch--I burn already--water--a mouthful for
a dying man--"
So came I to the water-butt that stood abaft the hatchway, and filling a
pannikin that chanced there with some of the little water that remained,
hastened back to Diccon, but ere I could reach him he struggled to his
knees and flinging arms aloft uttered a great cry and sank upon his face.
Then, finding him verily dead, I drank the water myself and, though
lukewarm and none too sweet, felt myself much refreshed and strengthened
thereby and the numbness of mind and body abated somewhat.
And yet, as I knelt thus, chancing to lift my eyes from the dead man before
me, it seemed that verily I must be dreaming after all, for there, all
daintily bedight in purple gown, I beheld a fine lady tripping lightly
among these mangled dead; crouched in the shadow of the bulwark I watched
this approaching figure; then I saw it was Joanna, saw the moon glint
evilly on the pistol she bore ere she vanished down the hatchway. And now,
reading her fell purpose, I rose to my feet and stole after her down into
An evil place this, crowded with forms that moaned and writhed fitfully in
the light of the lanthorns that burned dimly here and there, a place foul
with blood and reeking with the fumes of burnt powder, but I heeded only
the graceful shape that flitted on before; once she paused to reach down
a lanthorn and to open the slide, and when she went on again, flames
smouldered behind her and as often as she stayed to set these fires
a-going, I stayed to extinguish them as well as I might ere I hasted after
her. At last she paused to unlock a door and presently her voice reached
me, high and imperious as ever:
"Greeting, Don Federigo! The ship's afire and 'tis an ill thing to burn, so
do I bring you kinder death!"
Creeping to the door of this lock-up, I saw she had set down the lanthorn
and stood above the poor fettered captive, the pistol in her hand.
"The Seņorita is infinitely generous," said Don Federigo in his courtly
fashion; then, or ever she might level the weapon, I had seized and wrested
it from her grasp. Crying out in passionate fury, she turned and leapt at
"Off, murderess!" I cried, and whirling her from me, heard her fall and lie
moaning. "Come, sir," said I, aiding the Don to his feet, "let us be gone!"
But what with weakness and his fetters Don Federigo could scarce stand, so
I stooped and taking him across my shoulder, bore him from the place. But
as I went an acrid smoke met me and with here and there a glimmer of flame,
so that it seemed Joanna had fired the ship, my efforts notwithstanding. So
reeled I, panting, to the upper air and, loosing Don Federigo, sank to the
deck and stared dreamily at a dim moon.
And now I was aware of a voice in my ear, yet nothing heeded until, shaken
by an importunate hand, I roused and sat up, marvelling to find myself so
"Loose me, Seņor Martino, loose off my bonds; the fire grows apace and I
must go seek the Seņorita--burning is an evil death as she said. Loose off
my bonds--the Seņorita must not burn--"
"No, she must not--burn!" said I dully, and struggling to my feet I saw a
thin column of smoke that curled up the hatchway. Gasping and choking,
I fought my way down where flames crackled and smoke grew ever denser.
Suddenly amid this swirling vapour I heard a glad cry:
"Ah, _Martino mio_--you could not leave me then to die alone!" And I saw
Joanna, with arms stretched out to me, swaying against the angry glow
behind her. So I caught her up in my embrace and slipping, stumbling, blind
and half-choked, struggled up and up until at last I reeled out upon deck,
and with Joanna thus clasped upon my breast, stood staring with dazed and
unbelieving eyes at the vision that had risen up to confront me. For there
before me, hedged about by wild figures and brandished steel, with slender
hands tight-clasped together, with vivid lips apart and eyes wide, I
thought to behold at last my beloved Damaris, my Joan, my dear, dear lady;
but knowing this false, I laughed and shook my head.
"Deluding vision," said I, "blest sight long-hoped and prayed for--why
plague me now?"
I was on my knees, staring up at this beloved shape through blinding tears
and babbling I know not what. And then arms were about me, tender yet
strong and compelling, a soft cheek was pressed to mine and in my ear
"Oh, my beloved--fret not thyself--here is no vision, my Martin--"
"Joan!" I panted. "Oh, Damaris--beloved!" And shaking off these fettering
arms, I rose to my feet. "Joan, is it thou thyself in very truth, or do I
see thee in heaven--"
And now it seemed I was sinking within an engulfing darkness and nought to
see save only the pale oval of this so loved, oft-visioned face that held
for me the beauty of all beauteous things. At last her voice reached me,
soft and low, yet full of that sweet, vital ring that was beyond all
Out towards me in the growing dark I saw her hands reach down to me: and
then these eager, welcoming hands were seized and Joanna was between us on
"Spare him--Oh, lady, in mercy spare my beloved--kill me an you will, but
spare this man of mine--these arms have cradled him ere now, this bosom
been his pillow--"
"Joan!" I muttered, "Oh, Damaris, beloved--"
But seeing the stricken agony of her look and how she shrank from my touch,
I uttered a great cry and turning, sped blindly away and stumbling, fell
and was engulfed in choking blackness.
HOW I FELL IN WITH MY FRIEND, CAPTAIN SIR ADAM PENFEATHER
It was the pommel of the long rapier dangling from the chair-back that
first drew and held my eye, for this pommel was extremely bright and
polished and gleamed on me like a very keen and watchful eye as I watched,
though conscious also of the luxury of panelled walls, of rich floor
coverings and tapestried hangings, and the man who sat writing so
studiously at the carven table. And presently, roused by the scratch of his
industrious quill, I fell to watching him, his bowed head, the curve of his
back as he stooped. A small, lean man but very magnificent, for his coat of
rich purple velvet sat on him with scarce a wrinkle, his great peruke fell
in such ample profusion of curls that I could see nought but the tip of
his nose as he bent to his writing, and I wondered idly at his so great
industry. Now presently he paused to read over what he had written and
doing so, began to push and pull at his cumbrous wig and finally, lifting
it off, laid it on the table. Thus I saw the man was white-haired and that
his ears were mighty strange, being cut and trimmed to points like a dog's
ears; and beholding the jut of brow and nose and resolute chin, I fell to
sudden trembling, and striving to lift myself on the bed, wondered to find
this such a business.
"Adam!" said I, my voice strangely thin and far away, "Adam Penfeather!"
In one movement, as it seemed to me, he was out of the chair and leaning
above me. "Why, Martin," said he. "Why, comrade! Lord love you, Martin, are
ye awake at last? Here you've lain these twelve hours like a dead man and
small wonder, what with your wound--"
"So you have come--at last, Adam?"
"And in good time, shipmate!"
"Where am I?"