Part 5 out of 6
"God love thee, lad!" cried he, clasping my hand. "For if 'tis reason
raiseth us 'bove the brutes 'tis unselfishness surely lifts us nigh to
OUR DESPERATE SITUATION
"And now," quoth Sir Richard, "since you are bent on dragging this worn-out
carcase along to be your careful burden (for the which may God bless you
everlastingly, dear lad!) let us see what equipment Fortune hath left us
beside your sword and the water." Herewith, upon investigation we found our
worldly possessions amount to the following:
In Sir Richard's Pockets:
1 ship's biscuit (somewhat spoiled by water).
A small clasp knife.
A length of small cord.
Adam's chart (and very limp).
9 pistol balls.
These various objects we set together before us and I for one mighty
disconsolate, for, excepting only the knife, a collection of more useless
odds and ends could not be imagined. Sir Richard, on the contrary, having
viewed each and every with his shrewd, kindly eyes, seemed in no wise cast
down, for, said he.
"We might be richer, but then we might be poorer--for here we have in this
biscuit one meal, though scant 'tis true and not over tasty. A sword and
knife for weapons and tools, a flint to make us fires, three yards of small
cord wherewith to contrive snares for small game, and though we ha' lost
our compass, we have the coast to follow by day and the stars to guide us
by night and furthermore--"
"Nine pistol balls!" quoth I gloomily.
"Hum!" said he, stroking his chin and eyeing me askance. "Having neither
weapons nor powder to project them--"
"They shall arm me arrows!"
"Aye, but will they serve?" he questioned doubtfully.
"Well enough, supposing we find aught to shoot at--"
"Never fear, in Darien are beasts and fowls a-plenty."
"Well and good, sir!" said I, gathering up the bullets, and doing so,
espied a piece of driftwood carrying many bent and rusty nails, the which
(the wood being very dry and rotten) I presently broke out and to my nine
bullets I added some dozen nails, pocketing them to the same purpose. And
now having collected our possessions (of more value to us than all the
treasures of Peru), we set forth upon our long and toilsome journey, our
gaze bent ever upon the cliffs that frowned upon our right hand, looking
for some place easy of ascent whereby we might come to the highlands above
(where we judged it easier travelling) and with Pluto stalking on before
like the dignified animal he was, looking back ever and anon as if bidding
us to follow.
And as I watched this great beast, the thought occurred to me that here was
what should save us from starvation should we come to such extremity; but
I spake nothing of this to Sir Richard who had conceived a great affection
for the dog from the first. And after some while we came to a place where
the cliff had fallen and made a sloping causeway of earth and rocks, topped
by shady trees. This we began to mount forthwith and, finding it none so
steep, I (lost in my thoughts) climbed apace, forgetful of Sir Richard in
my eagerness, until, missing him beside me, I turned to see him on hands
and knees, dragging himself painfully after me thus, whereon I hasted back
to him full of self-reproaches.
"'Tis only my legs!" he gasped, lifting agonised face. "My spirit is
willing, Martin, but alas, my poor flesh--"
"Nay--'tis I am selfish!" quoth I. "Aye, a selfish man ever, dreaming only
of my own woes!" Saying which, I raised him and, setting an arm about his
wasted form, aided him as well as I might until, seeing how he failed
despite his brave struggles, I made him sit and rest awhile, unheeding his
breathless protestations, and thus at last, by easy stages, we came to the
top of the ascent amid a grove of very tall trees, in whose pleasant shade
we paused awhile, it being now midday and very hot.
Behind us lay the ocean, before us a range of mighty mountains blue with
distance that rose, jagged peak on peak, far as eye could see, and betwixt
them and us a vast and rolling wilderness, a land of vivid sun and stark
shadow, dazzling glare on the uplands, gloom in the valleys and above swamp
and thicket and trackless forests a vapour that hung sullen and ominous
like the brooding soul of this evil country.
"Fever!" quoth Sir Richard, stabbing at the sluggish mist with bony
fingers. "Ague, the flux--death! We must travel ever by the higher levels,
Martin--and I a cripple!"
"Why, then," said I, "you shall have a staff to aid you on one side and
my arm on t'other, and shall attempt no great distance until you grow
stronger." So having found and cut a staff to serve him, we set off
together upon our long and arduous pilgrimage.
By mid-afternoon we reached a place of rocks whence bubbled a small rill
mighty pleasant to behold and vastly refreshing to our parched throats and
bodies. Here, though the day was still young and we had come (as I judged)
scarce six miles, I proposed to camp for the night, whereon Sir Richard
must needs earnestly protest he could go further an I would, but finding me
determined, he heaved a prodigious sigh and stretching himself in the cool
shadow, lay there silent awhile, yet mighty content, as I could see.
"Martin," quoth he at last, "by my reckoning we have some hundred and fifty
miles to go."
"But, sir, they will be less to-morrow!" said I, busied with my knife on
certain branches I had cut.
"And but half a ship's biscuit to our sustenance, and that spoiled."
"Why, then, throw it away; I will get us better fare!" said I, for as we
came along I had spied several of those great birds the which I knew to be
very excellent eating.
"As how, my son?" he questioned.
"With bow and arrows." At this he sat up to watch me at work and very eager
to aid me therein. "So you shall, sir," said I, and having tapered my
bow-stave sufficiently, I showed him how to trim the shafts as smooth and
true as possible with a cleft or notch at one end into which I set one of
my rusty nails, binding it there with strips from my tattered shirt; in
place of feathers I used a tuft of grass and behold! my arrow was complete,
and though a poor thing to look at yet it would answer well enough, as I
knew by experience. So we fell to our arrow-making, wherein I found Sir
Richard very quick and skilful, as I told him, the which seemed to please
"For," said he miserably, "I feel myself such a burden to thee, Martin,
that anything I can do to lighten thy travail be to me great comfort."
"Sir," said I, "these many years have I been a solitary man hungering for
companionship, and, in place of enemy, God hath given me a friend and one I
do love and honour. As to his crippled body, sir, it beareth no scar but is
a badge of honour, and if he halt in his gait or fail by the way, this
doth but remind me of his dauntless soul that, despite pain and torment,
So saying, I caught up such arrows as were finished (four in all) and
taking my bow, set forth in quest of supper, with Pluto at my heels. Nor
had I far to seek, for presently I espied several of these monstrous birds
among the trees and, stringing my bow with a length of cord, I crept
forward until I was in easy range and, setting arrow to string, let fly.
Away sang my shaft, a yard wide of the mark, soaring high into the air and
far beyond all hope of recovery.
This put me in a fine rage, for not only had I lost my precious arrow, but
the quarry also, for off flapped my bird, uttering a hoarse cackle as in
derision of my ill aim. On I went, seeking for something should serve us
for supper, yet look where I would, saw nothing, no, not so much as parrot
or macaw that might stay us for lack of better fare. On I went, and
mightily hungry, wandering haphazard and nothing to reward me until,
reaching an opening or glade shut in by dense thickets beyond, I sat me
upon a fallen tree and in mighty ill humour, the dog Pluto at my feet.
Suddenly I saw him start and prick his ears, and presently, sure enough,
heard a distant stir and rustling in the thickets that grew rapidly nearer
and louder to trampling rush; and out from the leaves broke some dozen or
so young pigs; but espying the dog they swung about in squealing terror and
plunged back again. But in that moment I let fly among them and was mighty
glad to see one roll over and lie kicking, filling the air with shrill
outcry; then Pluto was upon it and had quickly finished the poor beast,
aye, and would have devoured it, too, had I not driven him off with my
It was a small pig and something lean, yet never in this world hunter more
pleased than I as, shouldering the carcase and with Pluto going before, I
made my way back to our halting-place and found Sir Richard had contrived
to light a fire and full of wonder to behold my pig.
"Though to be sure," said he, "I've heard there were such in Darien, yet I
never saw any, Martin, more especially in these high lands."
"They were fleeing from some wild beast, as I judge, sir," quoth I.
"Why, then, 'twere as well to keep our fire going all night!" said he:
to the which I agreed and forthwith set about cutting up the pig, first
flaying it as well as I might, since I judged the skin should be very
serviceable in divers ways. So this night we supped excellent well.
The meal over, Sir Richard cut up what remained of the carcase into strips
and set me to gather certain small branches with which he built a sort of
grating above some glowing embers and thus dried and smoked the meat after
the manner of the buccaneers. "For look now, Martin," said he, "besides
drying the meat, these twigs are aromatic and do lend a most excellent
flavour, so that there is no better meat in the world--besides, it will
Beyond the rocky cleft bright with the light of our fire the vasty
wilderness hemmed us in, black and sullen, for the trees being thick
hereabouts we could see no glimpse of moon or star. And amid this gloom
were things that moved stealthily, shapes that rustled and flitted, and
ever and anon would come the howl of some beast, the cry of some bird,
hunting or hunted, whereat Pluto, crunching on a bone, would lift his head
to growl. So with the fire and the dog's watchfulness we felt tolerably
secure and presently fell asleep.
WE COMMENCE OUR JOURNEY
Day after day we held on, suffering much by reason of heat, thirst and
fatigue, since, fearing lest we should lose sight of our guide, the sea,
and go astray to perish miserably in the wild, we followed ever the trend
of this mountainous coast.
By rocky ways we marched, by swamps and mazy thickets, down precipitous
slopes, through tangled woods, across wide savannahs, along perilous tracks
high above dim forests that stretched away like a leafy ocean, whence we
might behold a wide prospect of all those weary miles before us.
And surely nowhere in all this world is to be seen a country more full of
marvels and wonders than this land of Darien. For here rise vasty mountains
whose jagged summits split the very heaven; here are mighty rivers and
roaring cataracts, rolling plains, thirsty deserts and illimitable forests
in whose grim shadow lurk all manner of beasts and reptiles strange beyond
thought; here lie dense groves and tangled thickets where bloom great
flowers of unearthly beauty yet rank of smell and poisonous to the touch;
here are birds of every kind and hue and far beyond this poor pen to
describe by reason of the beauty and brilliancy of their plumage, some of
which would warble so sweet 'twas great joy to hear while the discordant
croakings and shrill clamours of others might scarce be endured. Here, too,
are trees (like the cocos) so beneficent to yield a man food and drink,
aye, and garments to cover him; or others (like the maria and balsam trees)
that besides their timber do distil medicinal oils, and yet here also are
trees so noxious their mere touch bringeth a painful disease of the skin
and to sleep in their shadow breedeth sickness and death; here, too, grow
all manner of luscious fruits as the ananas or pineapple, with oranges,
grapes, medlars and dates, but here again are other fruits as fair to the
eye, yet deadly as fang of snake or sting of _cientopies_. Truly (as I do
think), nowhere is there country of such extremes of good and evil as this
land of Darien.
Thus day by day we held on and daily learned I much of tree and fruit and
flower, of beast, bird and reptile from Sir Richard who, it seemed, was
deeply versed in the lore of such, both by reading and experience; but
hourly I learned more of this man's many and noble qualities, as his
fortitude, his unflinching courage and the cheerful spirit that could make
light of pain and thirst and weariness so that, misjudging his strength, I
would sometimes march him well-nigh beyond his endurance, but knew nought
of it since he never complained but masked his suffering in brave and
smiling words. And there were times when, burning with impatience, I would
quicken my pace (God forgive me) until, missing his plodding figure, I
would look back to see him stumbling after me afar.
It was upon the fifth day of our journey that, missing him thus, I turned
to wait for him to come up and found him nowhere in sight. Hereupon I
hasted back the way I had come and after some while beheld him prone in the
dust; he lay outstretched upon his face in the hot glare of the sun, the
dog Pluto squatting beside him, and as I approached the desolate figure I
knew that he was weeping. So came I running to fall beside him on my knees
and lifting that abased head, saw indeed the agony of his tears.
"Oh, Martin--forgive me!" he gasped. "I can crawl no faster--better were I
dead, dear lad, than hamper you thus--"
"Rather will I perish!" said I, lifting him in my arms to bear him out of
the sun and much grieved to find him a burden so light; and now, sitting
'neath a great tree, I took his head upon my bosom and wiped the tears from
his furrowed cheeks and set myself diligently to comfort him, but seeing
him so faint and fore-done, I began alternately to berate myself heartily
and lament over him so that he must needs presently take to comforting me
in turn, vowing himself very well, that it was nought but the heat, that he
would be able to go and none the worse in a little, etc. "Besides," said
he, "'tis worth such small discomfort to find you so tender of me, Martin.
Yet indeed I am stronger than I seem and shall be ready to go on as soon as
"Nay, sir," said I, mighty determined, "here we bide till the sun
moderates; 'tis too hot for the dog even," and I nodded where Pluto lay
outstretched and panting, hard by. But now, even as I spoke, the dog lifted
his head to snuff the air and, getting up, bolted off among the adjacent
undergrowth. I was yet idly wondering at this when suddenly, from somewhere
afar in the woods below, came a sound there was no mistaking--the faint,
sharp crack of a firearm. In a moment I was on my feet and, with Sir
Richard beside me, came where we might look into the green depths below us.
And sure enough, amid this leafy wilderness I saw a glitter that came and
went, the which I knew must be armour, and presently made out the forms
of men and horses with divers hooded litters and long files of tramping
"Ah!" quoth Sir Richard. "Yon should be the gold-train for Panama or
Carthagena, or mayhap Indians being marched to slavery in the mines, poor
As he spake, came a puff of white smoke plain to see and thereafter divers
others, and presently the reports of this firing smote upon our ears in
"What now?" said I, straining my eyes. "Is there a battle toward--"
"Nay, Martin, 'tis more like some poor wretch hath broke his bonds and fled
into the woods; if so, God send him safe out of their hands, for I have
endured slavery and--" here his voice broke, and casting himself on his
knees he clasped his arms about me, and I all amazed to see him so moved.
"Oh, Martin!" he wept, in voice of agony, "oh, dear and gentle lad, 'twas
to such slavery, such shame and misery I sent thee once--thou--that I do so
"Sir," said I, stooping to lift him. "Sir, this is all forgot and out of
"Yet, dear lad, you do bear the marks yet, scars o' the whip, marks o' the
shackles. I have seen them when you slept--and never a one but set there by
my hand--and now--now you must cherish me if I fail by the way--must bear
me in your arms--grieve for my weakness--Oh, dear lad, I would you were a
little harsher--less kind."
Now seeing how it was with him, I sat me down and, folding him within my
arm, sought to comfort him in my blundering way, reminding him of all he
had endured and that my sufferings could nowise compare with his own and
that in many ways I was no whit the worse: "Indeed," said I, "in many
ways I am the better man, for solitude hath but taught me to think beyond
myself, though 'tis true I am something slow of speech and rude of manner,
and hardship hath but made me stronger of body than most men I have met."
"Oh, God love you, lad!" cried he of a sudden, 'twixt laughing and weeping.
"You will be calling me your benefactor next!"
"And wherefore not?" quoth I. "For indeed, being made wise by suffering,
you have taught me many things and most of all to love you in despite of
Now at this he looks at me all radiant-eyed, yet when he would have spoken,
could not, and so was silence awhile. Now turning to look down into the
valley I saw it all deserted and marking how the forest road ran due east,
I spoke that which was in my thought.
"Sir, yonder, as I think, must be a highway; at least, where others go, so
may we, and 'twill be easier travelling than these rocky highlands; how
"Why, truly, if road there be, it must bring us again to the sea soon or
late; so come, let us go!"
So saying, he got him to his legs, whereupon Pluto leapt and fawned upon
him for very joy; and thus finding him something recovered and very earnest
to be gone, we set out again (maugre the sun) looking for some place
whereby we might get us down into the valley, and after some while came
upon a fissure in the cliff face which, though easy going for an able man,
was a different matter I thought for my companion; but as I hesitated, the
matter was put beyond despite by Sir Richard forthwith cheerily beginning
the descent, whereupon I followed him and after me the dog. As we
descended, the way grew easier until We reached at last a small plateau
pleasantly shaded by palm trees; here (and despite his hardihood), Sir
Richard sank down, sweating with the painful effort and gasping for breath,
yet needs must he smile up at me triumphant, so that I admired anew the
indomitable spirit of him.
"Oh, for a drink!" quoth he, as I set an armful of fern beneath his head.
"Alas!" said I, "'tis far down to the river--"
"Nay--above, lad, look above--yonder is drink for a whole ship's company!"
and he pointed feebly to the foliage of the tree 'neath which he lay:
"What! Is this a cocos palm?" said I, rejoicing; and forthwith doffing my
sword belt, I clambered up this tree hand over fist and had soon plucked
and tossed down a sufficiency of great, green nuts about the bigness of my
two fists. Now sitting beside him, Sir Richard showed me how I must cut two
holes in the green rind and we drank blissfully of this kindly juice that
to our parched tongues was very nectar, for verily never in all my days
have I tasted drink so delectable and invigorating. As for Pluto, when
I offered him of this he merely sniffed and yawned contemptuous. Thus
refreshed we went on again, the way growing ever easier until we entered
the shade of those vast woods we had seen from above.
But scarce were we here than rose such a chattering, whittling and croaking
from the leafy mysteries above and around us, such a screaming and wailing
as was most distressful to hear, for all about us was a great multitude of
birds; the forest seemed full of them, and very wonderful to see by reason
of their plumage, its radiant and divers hues, so that as they flitted to
and fro in their glowing splendour they seemed like so many flying jewels,
while clustering high in the trees or swinging nimbly among the branches
were troops of monkeys that screamed and chattered and grimaced down at us
for all the world as they had been very fiends of the pit.
"Heard ye ever such unholy hubbub, Martin?" said Sir Richard, halting to
glance about us. "This portendeth a storm, I judge, for these creatures
possess gifts denied to us humans. See how they do begin to cower and seek
what shelter they may! We were wise to do the like, my son. I marked a cave
back yonder; let us go there, for these woods be an evil place at such
So back we went accordingly and saw the sunlight suddenly quenched and the
sky lower above us ever darker and more threatening, so that by the time we
had reached the little cave in question, it almost seemed night was upon
us. And now, crouching in this secure haven, I marvelled at the sudden,
unearthly stillness of all things; not a leaf stirred and never a sound to
hear, for beast and bird alike had fallen mute.
Then all at once was a blinding glare followed by roaring thunder-clap that
echoed and re-echoed from rugged cliff to mountain summit near and far
until this was whelmed and lost in the rush of a booming, mighty wind and
this howling riot full of whirling leaves and twigs and riven branches. And
now came the rain, a hissing downpour that seemed it would drown the world,
while ever the lightning flared and crackled and thunder roared ever more
loud until I shrank, blinded and half-stunned. After some while, these
awful sounds hushing a little, in their stead was the lash and beat of
rain, the rush and trickle of water where it gushed and spouted down from
the cliff above in foaming cascades until I began to dread lest this deluge
overwhelm us and we be drowned miserably in our little cave. But, all
at once, sudden as it had come, the storm was passed, rain and wind and
thunder ceased, the sombre clouds rolled away and down beamed the sun to
show us a new and radiant world of vivid greens spangled as it were with a
myriad shimmering gems, a very glory to behold.
"'Tis a passionate country this, Martin," as we stepped forth of our
refuge, "but its desperate rages be soon over."
By late afternoon we came out upon a broad green track that split the
forest east and west, and where, despite the rain, we might yet discern
faint traces here and there of the hoofs and feet had trampled it earlier
in the day, so that it seemed we must march behind them. On we went, very
grateful for the trees that shaded us and the springy grass underfoot, Sir
Richard swinging his staff and striding out right cheerily. Suddenly Pluto,
uttering a single joyous bark, sprang off among the brush that grew very
thick, and looking thither, we espied a small stream and the day being far
spent we decided to pass the night hereabouts, so we turned aside forthwith
and having gone but a few yards, found ourselves quite hidden from the
highway, so thick grew the trees and so dense and tangled the thickets that
shut us in; and here ran this purling brook, making sweet, soft noises in
the shallows mighty soothing to be heard. And here I would have stayed but
Sir Richard shook wise head and was for pushing farther into the wild.
"For," said he, "there may be other travellers behind us to spy some gleam
of our fire and who shall these be but enemies?" So, following the rill
that, it seemed, took its rise from the cliffs to our left, we went on
until Sir Richard paused in the shade of a great tree that soared high
above its fellows and hard beside the stream.
But scarce were we come hither than Pluto uttered a savage growl and
turned, snuffing the air, whereupon Sir Richard, grasping the battered
collar about his massy throat, bade him sternly to silence.
"What saw I, Martin? Some one comes--let us go see, and softly!"
So, following whither Pluto led, we presently heard voices speaking the
Spanish tongue, and one cursed, and one mocked and one sang. Hereupon I
drew sword, and moving with infinite caution, we came where, screened
'mid the leaves, we might behold the highway. And thus we beheld six men
approaching and one a horseman; nearer they came until we could see them
sweating beneath their armour and the weapons they bore, and driving before
them a poor, blood-stained wretch tied to the horseman's stirrup, yet who,
despite wounds and blows, strode with head proudly erect, heeding them no
whit. Yet suddenly he stumbled and fell, whereupon the horseman swore again
and the captive was kicked to his feet and so was dragged on again, reeling
for very weariness; and I saw this poor creature was an Indian.
"Martin," said Sir Richard, when this sorry cavalcade was gone by, "it
would, I think, be action commendable to endeavour rescue of this poor
"It would, sir!" quoth I. "And a foolhardy."
"Mayhap," said he, "yet am I minded to adventure it"
"How, sir--with one sword and a knife?"
"Nay, Martin, by God's aid, strategy and a dog. Come then, let us follow;
they cannot go far, and I heard them talk of camping hereabouts. Softly,
"But, sir," said I, amazed at this audacity, "will you outface five lusty
"And wherefore not, Martin? Is the outfacing of five rogues any greater
matter than outfacing this God's wilderness? Nay, I am not mad," said he,
meeting my glance with a smile, "there were times when I adventured greater
odds than this and to worse end, God forgive me! Alas, I have wrought so
much of evil in the past I would fain offset it with a little good, so bear
with me, dear lad--"
"Yet this man you risk your life for is but a stranger and an Indian at
"And what then, Martin? Cannot an Indian suffer--cannot he die?" Here,
finding me silent, he continued. "Moreover, there be very cogent reasons do
urge a little risk, for look now, these rogues do go well shod--and see our
poor shoes! They bear equipment very necessary to us that have so far to go
and their horse should be useful to us. Nor dream I would lightly hazard
your life, Martin, for these men have been drinking, will drink more and
should therefore sleep sound, and I have a plan whereby Pluto and I--"
"Sir Richard," said I, "where you go, I go!"
"Why, very well, Martin, 'twere like you--but you shall be subject to my
guidance and do nought without my word."
As he spoke, his eyes quick and alert, his face grimly purposeful, there
was about him that indefinable air of authority I had noticed more than
once. Thus, with no better weapons than his staff and knife, and my sword,
bow and poor arrows, we held on after these five Spanish soldiers, Sir
Richard nothing daunted by this disparity of power but rather the more
determined and mighty cheerful by his looks, but myself full of doubts
and misgiving. Perceiving which, he presently stopped to slap me on the
"Martin," said he, "if things go as I think, we shall this night be very
well off for equipment and all without a blow, which is good, and save a
life, which is better!"
"Aye, but, sir, how if things go contrary-wise?"
"Why, then, sure a quick death is better than to perish miserably by the
way, for we have cruel going before us, thirsty deserts and barren wilds
where game is scarce; better steel or bullet than to die raving with thirst
or slow starvation--how say ye, lad?"
"Lead on!" quoth I and tightened my belt.
"Ha!" said he, halting suddenly as arose a sudden crack of twigs and
underbrush some distance on our front. "They have turned in to the
water--let us sit here and watch for their camp fire." And presently, sure
enough, we saw a red glow through the underbrush ahead that grew ever
brighter as the shadows deepened; and so came the night.
How long we waited thus, our eyes turned ever towards this red fire-glow, I
know not, but at last I felt Sir Richard touch me and heard his voice in my
"Let us advance until we have 'em in better view!" Forthwith we stole
forward, Sir Richard's grasp on Pluto's collar and hushing him to silence,
until we were nigh enough to catch the sound of their voices very loud and
distinct. Here we paused again and so passed another period of patient
waiting wherein we heard them begin to grow merry, to judge by their
laughter and singing, a lewd clamour very strange and out of place in these
wild solitudes, under cover of which uproar we crept upon them nearer and
nearer until we might see them sprawled about the fire, their muskets piled
against a tree, their miserable captive lashed fast to another and drooping
in his bonds like one sleeping or a-swoon. So lay we watching and waiting
while their carouse waxed to a riot and waned anon to sleepy talk and
drowsy murmurs and at last to a lusty snoring. And after some wait, Sir
Richard's hand ever upon Pluto's collar, we crept forward again until we
were drawn close upon that tree where stood the muskets. Then up rose Sir
Richard, letting slip the dog and we were upon them, all three of us, our
roars and shouts mingled with the fierce raving of the great hound. At the
which hellish clamour, these poor rogues waked in sudden panic to behold
the dog snapping and snarling about them and ourselves covering them with
their own weapons, and never a thought among them but to supplicate our
mercy; the which they did forthwith upon their knees and with upraised
hands. Hereupon Sir Richard, scowling mighty fierce, bid such of them as
loved life to be gone, whereat in the utmost haste and as one man, up
started they all five and took themselves off with such impetuous celerity
that we stood alone and masters of all their gear in less time than it
taketh me to write down.
"Well, Martin," said Sir Richard, grim-smiling, "'twas none so desperate a
business after all! Come now, let us minister to this poor prisoner."
We found him in sorry plight and having freed him of his bonds I fetched
water from the brook near by and together we did what we might to his
comfort, all of the which he suffered and never a word: which done, we
supped heartily all three on the spoil we had taken. Only once did the
Indian speak, and in broken Spanish, to know who we were.
"Content you, we are no Spaniards!" answered Sir Richard, setting a cloak
about him as he lay.
"Truly this do I see, my father!" he murmured, and so fell asleep, the
which so excellent example I bade Sir Richard follow and this after some
demur, he agreed to (though first he must needs help me collect sticks for
the fire), then commanding me wake him in two hours without fail, he rolled
himself in one of the cloaks and very presently fell soundly asleep like
the hardy old campaigner he was.
And now, the fire blazing cheerily, Pluto outstretched beside me, one
bright eye opening ever and anon, and a pistol in my belt, I took careful
stock of our new-come-by possessions and found them to comprise the
3 muskets with powder and shot a-plenty.
2 brace of pistols.
3 swords, with belts, hangers, etc.
3 steel backs and breasts.
1 beaver hat excellent wide in the brim, should do for Sir
Richard; he suffering much by the sun despite the hat of leaves
I had made him.
1 axe heavy and something blunted.
2 excellent knives,
2 wine skins, both empty.
3 flasks, the same.
Good store of meat with cakes of very excellent bread of cassava.
1 horse with furniture for same,
5 cloaks, something worn.
3 pair of boots, very serviceable.
1 tinder box.
One brass compass in the pocket of same and of more value to us, I thought,
than all the rest, the which pleased me mightily; so that for a long time I
sat moving it to and fro to watch the swing of the needle and so at last,
what with the crackle of the fire and the brooding stillness beyond and
around us, I presently fell a-nodding and in a little (faithless sentinel
that I was) to heavy slumber.
WE FALL IN WITH ONE ATLAMATZIN, AN INDIAN CHIEF
I waked to a scream, a fierce trampling, an awful snarling, this drowned in
the roar of a gun, and started up to see a glitter of darting steel that
Sir Richard sought to parry with his smoking weapon. Then I was up, and,
sword in hand, leapt towards his assailant, a tall, bearded man whose
corselet flashed red in the fire-glow and who turned to meet my onset,
shouting fiercely. And so we fell to it point and point; pushing
desperately at each other in the half-light and raving pandemonium about us
until more by good fortune than skill I ran him in the arm and shoulder,
whereupon, gasping out hoarse maledictions, he incontinent made off into
the dark. Then turned I to find myself alone; even the Indian had vanished,
though from the darkness near at hand was a sound of fierce strife and a
ringing shot. Catching up a musket I turned thitherward, but scarce had I
gone a step than into the light of the fire limped Sir Richard and Pluto
beside him, who licked and licked at his great muzzle as he came.
"Oh, Martin!" gasped Sir Richard, leaning on his musket and bowing his
head, "oh, Martin--but for Pluto here--" And now, as he paused, I saw the
dog's fangs and tongue horribly discoloured.
"'Tis all my fault!" said I bitterly. "I fell asleep at my post!"
"Aye!" he groaned, "whereby are two men dead and one by my hand, God
"Nay, but these were enemies bent on our murder!"
"Had they seen you wakeful and vigilant they had never dared attack us.
As it is, I have another life on my conscience and I am an old man and
soul-weary of strife and bloodshed, yet this it seems is my destiny!"
So saying he sat him down by the fire exceeding dejected, and when I would
have comforted him I found no word. Suddenly I heard Pluto growl in his
throat, saw the hair on neck and shoulders bristle, and looking where he
looked, cocked my musket and raised it to my shoulder, then lowered it, as,
with no sound of footstep, the Indian stepped into the firelight. In one
hand he grasped the axe and as he came nearer I saw axe and hand and arm
dripped red. At Sir Richard's word and gesture Pluto cowered down and
suffered the Indian to approach, a tall, stately figure, who, coming close
beside the fire, held out to us his left hand open and upon the palm three
human ears, the which he let fall to stamp upon with his moccasined foot.
"Dead, my brothers!" said he in his broken Spanish and holding up three
fingers. "So be all enemies of Atlamatzin and his good friends." Saying
which he stopped to cleanse himself and the axe in the stream and with
the same grave serenity he came back to the fire and stretching himself
thereby, composed himself to slumber.
But as for Sir Richard and myself no thought had we of sleep but sat there
very silent for the most part, staring into the fire until it paled to the
day and the woods around us shrilled and echoed to the chatter and cries,
the piping and sweet carol of new-waked birds.
Then, having broken our fast, we prepared to set out in the early freshness
of the morning, when to us came the Indian Atlamatzin and taking my hand,
touched it to his breast and forehead and having done as much by Sir
Richard, crossed his arms, and looking from one to other of us, spake in
his halting Spanish as much as to say, "My father and brother, whither
go ye?" At this Sir Richard, who it seemed knew something of the Indian
tongue, gave him to understand we went eastwards towards the Gulf.
Whereupon the Indian bowed gravely, answering:
"Ye be lonely, even as I, and thitherward go I many moons to what little of
good, war and evil have left to me. Therefore will I company with ye an ye
would have me." To the which we presently agreeing, he forthwith took his
share of our burden, and with the axe at his side and our spare musket on
his shoulder, went on before, threading his way by brake and thicket
with such sureness of direction that we were soon out upon the open
And now seeing how stoutly Sir Richard stepped out (despite the gear he
bore as gun, powder horn, water bottle, etc.) what with the sweet freshness
here among the trees and seeing us so well provided against circumstances,
I came nigh singing for pure lightness of heart. But scarce had we gone a
mile than my gaiety was damped and in this fashion.
"Here is a land of death, Martin--see yonder!" said Sir Richard and pointed
to divers great birds that flapped up heavily from the way before us.
Coming nearer, I saw others of the breed that quarrelled and fought and
screamed and, upon our nearer approach, hopped along in a kind of torpor
ere they rose on lazy wings and flew away; and coming nearer yet I saw the
wherefore of their gathering and Sir Richard's words and grew sick within
me. It was an Indian woman who lay where she had fallen, a dead babe
clasped to dead bosom with one arm, the other shorn off at the elbow.
"A Spanish sword-stroke, Martin!" said Sir Richard, pointing to this. "God
pity this poor outraged people!" And with this prayer we left these poor
remains, and hasting away, heard again the heavy beat of wings and the
carrion cry of these monstrous birds. And now I bethought me that the
Indian, striding before us, had never so much as turned and scarce deigned
a glance at this pitiful sight, as I noted to Sir Richard.
"And yet, Martin, he brought in three Spanish ears last night! Moreover, he
is an Indian and one of the Maya tribe that at one time were a noble people
and notable good fighters, but now slaves, alas, all save a sorry few that
do live out of the white man's reach 'mid the ruin of noble cities high up
in the Cordilleras--_sic transit gloria mundi_, alas!"
For three days we tramped this highway in the wake of the Spanish
treasure-convoy and came on the remains of many of these miserable slaves
who, overcome with fatigue, had fallen in their chains and being cut free,
had been left thus to perish miserably.
On this, the fourth day, we turned off from this forest road (the which
began to trend southerly); we struck off, I say, following our Indian, into
a narrow track bearing east and by north which heartened me much since,
according to Adam's chart, this should bring us directly towards that spot
he had marked as our rendezvous. And as we advanced, the country changed,
the woods thinned away to a rolling hill-country, and this to rocky ways
that grew ever steeper and more difficult, and though we had no lack of
water, we suffered much by reason of the heat. And now on our right we
beheld great mountains towering high above us, peak on peak, soaring aloft
to the cloudless heaven where blazed a pitiless sun. Indeed, so unendurable
was this heat that we would lie panting in some shade until the day
languished and instead of glaring sun was radiant moon to light us on our
pilgrimage. And here we were often beset by dreadful tempests where mighty
winds shouted and thunder cracked and roared most awful to be heard among
these solitary mountains. So we skirted these great mountains, by frowning
precipice and dark defile, past foaming cataracts and waters that roared
unseen below us.
And very thankful we were for such a guide as this Indian Atlamatzin who,
grave, solemn and seldom-speaking, was never at a loss and very wise as to
this wilderness and all things in it,--beast and bird, tree and herb and
flower. And stoutly did Sir Richard bear himself during this weary time,
plodding on hour after hour until for very shame I would call a halt, and
he, albeit ready to swoon for weariness, would find breath to berate me for
a laggard and protest himself able to go on, until, taking him in my arms,
I would lay him in some sheltered nook and find him sound asleep before
ever I could prepare our meal.
Thus held we on until towering mountain and scowling cliff sank behind and
we came into a gentle country of placid streams, grassy tracts, with herb
and tree and flower a very joy to the eyes.
"Martin," said Sir Richard, as we sat at breakfast beside a crystal pool,
"Martin," said he, pulling at Pluto's nearest ear with sunburned fingers,
"I do begin to think that all these days I have been harbouring a shadow."
"How so, sir?"
"It hath seemed to me from the first that I should leave this poor body
here in Darien--"
"God forbid!" quoth I fervently.
"'Twould be but my body, Martin; my soul would go along with you, dear lad;
aye, 'twould be close by to comfort and aid and bring you safe to--her--my
sweet Joan--and mayhap--with you twain--to England."
"Nay, dear sir, I had liefer you bear your body along with it. Thank God,
you do grow more hearty every day. And the ague scarce troubles you--"
"Truly, God hath been very kind. I am thrice the man I was, though I limp
wofully, which grieves me since it shortens the day's journey, lad. We have
been already these many days and yet, as I compute, we have fully eighty
miles yet to go. Alas, dear lad, how my crawling must fret you."
"Sir Richard," said I, clapping my hand on his, "no man could have endured
more courageously nor with stouter heart than you--no, not even Adam
Penfeather himself, so grieve not for your lameness. Adam will wait us, of
this I am assured."
"What manner of man is this Adam of yours, Martin?"
"He is himself, sir, and none other like him: a little, great man, a man of
cunning plots and contrivances, very bold and determined and crafty beyond
words. He is moreover a notable good seaman and commander, quick of hand
and eye. Dangers and difficulty are but a whetstone to set a keener edge to
his abilities. He was once a chief of buccaneers and is now a baronet
of England and justice of the peace, aye, and I think a member of His
Majesty's Parliament beside."
"Lord, Martin, you do paint me a very Proteus; fain would I meet such a
"Why, so you shall, sir, and judge for yourself."
Here Sir Richard sighed and turned to gaze where Atlamatzin was busied upon
a small fire he had lighted some distance away. Now, as to this Indian, if
I have not been particular in his description hitherto, it is because I
know not how to do so, seeing he was (to my mind) rather as one of another
world, a sombre figure proud and solitary and mostly beyond my ken, though
I came to know him something better towards the end and but for him should
have perished miserably. Thus then, I will try to show him to you in as few
words as I may.
Neither young nor old, tall and slender yet of incredible strength; his
features pleasing and no darker than my own sunburned skin, his voice soft
and deep, his bearing proud and stately and of a most grave courtesy.
Marvellous quick was he and nimble save for his tongue, he being less given
to talk even than I, so that I have known us march by the hour together
and never a word betwixt us. Yet was he a notable good friend, true and
steadfast and loyal, as you shall hear.
Just now (as I say) he was busy with a fire whereon he cast an armful of
wet leaves so that he had presently a thick column of smoke ascending into
the stilly air; and now he took him one of the cloaks and covered this
smoke, stifling and fanning it aside so that it was no more than a mist,
and anon looses it into a column again; and thus he checked or broke his
smoky pillar at irregular intervals, so that at last I needs must call to
ask him what he did.
"Brother," answered he in his grave fashion, "I talk with my people. In a
little you shall see them answer me. Hereupon Sir Richard told me how in
some parts these Indians will converse long distances apart by means of
drums, by which they will send you messages quicker than any relay of post
horses may go. And presently, sure enough, from a woody upland afar rose
an answering smoke that came and went and was answered by our fire, as in
question and answer, until at last Atlamatzin, having extinguished his
fire, came and sat him down beside us.
"Father and my brother," said he, folding his arms, "I read a tale of
blood, fire and battle at sea and along the coast. White men slaying white
men, which is good--so they slay enough!"
"A battle at sea? Do you mean ships?" I questioned uneasily.
"And on land, brother. Spanish soldiers have been espied wounded and yet
shouting with singing and laughing. Galleons have sailed from Porto Bello
"God send Adam is not beset!" said I.
"Amen!" quoth Sir Richard. "Nay, never despond, Martin, for if he be the
man you say he shall not easily be outwitted."
"Ah, sir, I think on my dear lady."
"And I also, Martin. But she is in the hands of God Who hath cherished her
"Moreover, oh, father and my brother, yonder my people do send you greeting
and will entertain you for so long as you will."
"Wherefore we thank you, Atlamatzin, good friend, you and them, but if fire
and battle are abroad we must on so soon as we may." So saying, Sir Richard
got to his feet and we did the like and, taking up our gear, set off with
what speed we might.
TELLETH SOMEWHAT OF A STRANGE CITY
By midday we were come in sight of this Indian city, a place strange beyond
thought, it being builded in vast terraces that rose one upon another up
the face of a great cliff, and embattled by divers many towers. And the
nearer I came the more grew my wonder by reason of the hugeness of this
structure, for these outer defences were builded of wrought stones, but of
such monstrous bulk and might as seemed rather the work of sweating Titans
than the labour of puny man; as indeed I told Sir Richard.
"Aye, truly, Martin," said he, "this is the abiding wonder! Here standeth
the noble monument of a once great and mighty people."
In a little Atlamatzin brought us to a stair or causeway that mounted up
from terrace to terrace, and behold, this stair was lined with warriors
grasping shield and lance, and brave in feathered cloaks and headdresses
and betwixt their ordered ranks one advancing,--an old man of a reverend
bearing, clad in a black robe and on whose bosom shone and glittered a
golden emblem that I took for the sun. Upon the lowest platform he halted
and lifted up his hands as in greeting, whereon up went painted shield and
glittering spear and from the stalwart warriors rose a lusty shout, a word
And now, to my wonder, forth stepped Atlamatzin, a proud and stately figure
for all his rags, and lifting one hand aloft, spake to them in voice very
loud and clear, pointing to us from time to time. When he had gone they
shouted amain and, descending from the platform, the priest (as he proved
to be) knelt before Atlamatzin to touch his heart and brow. And now came
divers Indians bearing litters, the which, at Altlamatzin's word, Sir
Richard and I entered and so, Pluto trotting beside us, were borne up from
terrace to terrace unto the town. And I saw this had once been a goodly
city though its glory was departed, its noble buildings decayed or ruinated
and cheek by jowl with primitive dwellings of clay. And these greater
houses were of a noble simplicity, flat-roofed and builded of a red, porous
stone, in some cases coated with white cement, whiles here and there,
towering high among these, rose huge structures that I took for palaces or
temples, yet one and all timeworn and crumbling to decay. Before one of
such, standing in a goodly square, we alighted and here found a crowd
of people--men, women and children--who stood to behold us; a mild,
well-featured people, orderly and of a courteous bearing, yet who stared
and pointed, chattering, at sight of the dog. And if this were all of them,
a pitiful few I thought them in contrast to this great square whence opened
divers wide thoroughfares, and this mighty building that soared above
us, its great walls most wonderful to sight by reason of all manner of
decorations and carvings wrought into the semblance of writhing serpents
Betwixt a kind of gatehouse to right and left we entered an enclosure where
stood the temple itself, reared upon terraces. Here Atlamatzin giving us to
know we must leave the dog, Sir Richard tied him up, whereon Pluto, seeing
us leave him, howled in remonstrance, but, obedient to Sir Richard's word,
cowered to silence, yet mighty dismal to behold. And now, Atlamatzin and
the High Priest leading the way, we to climb numberless steps, and though
Richard found this no small labour despite my aid, at last we stood before
the massy portal of the temple that seemed to scowl upon us. And from the
dim interior rose a sound of voices chanting, drowned all at once in the
roll of drums and blare of trumpets and Atlamatzin and the Priest entered,
signing on us to follow.
"Have your weapons ready, Martin!" gasped Sir Richard. "For I have heard
evil tales of blood and sacrifice in such places as this!"
And thus side by side we stepped into the cool dimness of this strange
building. Once my eyes were accustomed to the gloom, I stood amazed by the
vast extent of this mighty building and awed by the wonder of it. Midway
burned a dim fire whose small flame flickered palely; all round us, huge
and mountainous, rose the shapes of strange deities wonderfully wrought;
round about the altar fire were grouped many black-robed priests and hard
by this fire stood a thing that brought back memory of Adam Penfeather
his words--of how he had fought for his life on the death-stone; and now,
beholding this grim thing, I shifted round my sword and felt if my pistols
were to hand. And now rose Atlamatzin's voice, rumbling in the dimness high
overhead, and coming to us, he took us each by the hand and, leading us
forward, spake awhile to the motionless priests, who, when he had done,
came about us with hands uplifted in greeting. And now Atlamatzin spake us
on this wise:
"Father and my brother, well do I know ye have clean hearts despite your
pale skins, so do I make ye welcome and free of this city that once was
overruled by my forefathers. And because ye are white men, loving all such
foolish things as all white men do love, follow me!"
Saying which, he brought us before one of those great idols that glared
down on us. I saw him lift one hand, then started back from the square of
darkness that yawned suddenly as to engulf us. Taking a torch, Atlamatzin
led us down steps and along a broad passage beneath the temple and so
into a vasty chamber where lay that which gave back the light he bore;
everywhere about us was the sheen of gold. In ordered piles, in great
heaps, in scattered pieces it lay, wrought into a thousand fantastic
shapes, as idols, serpents, basins, pots and the like,--a treasure beyond
"Behold the white man's God, the cause of my people's woes, the ruin of our
cities, of blood and battle!"
And here he gives us to understand this wealth was ours if we would; all or
such of it as we might bear away with us. Whereupon I shook my head and Sir
Richard told him that of more use to him than all this treasure would be
pen, inkhorn and paper, and a compass. Nothing speaking, Atlamatzin turned,
and by a very maze of winding passageways brought us up the steps and so to
a great and lofty chamber or hall where lay a vast medley of things: arms
and armour, horse furniture and Spanish gear of every sort, and in one
corner a small brass cannon, mounted on wheels. Amongst all of which Sir
Richard began searching and had his patience rewarded, for presently he
came on that he desired; viz: a travelling writing case with pens, paper,
and a sealed bottle of ink, though why he should want such was beyond me,
as I told him, whereat he did but smile, nothing speaking.
So back we came and unloosed our dog (and he mighty rejoiced to see us)
whereafter, by Atlamatzin's command, we were lodged in a chamber very
sumptuous and with servants observant to our every want; for our meals were
dishes a-plenty, savoury and excellent well cooked and seasoned, and for
our drink was milk, or water cunningly flavoured with fruits, as good as
any wine, to my thinking. And cups and platters, nay, the very pots, were
all of pure gold.
This night, having bathed me in a small bathhouse adjacent and very
luxurious, I get me to bed early (which was no more than a mat) but Sir
Richard, seated upon the floor hard by (for of chairs there were none),
Sir Richard, I say, must needs fall to with pen and ink, the great hound
drowsing beside him, so that, lulled by the soft scratching of his busy
quill, I presently slumbered also.
Next morning I awoke late to find Sir Richard squatted where he had sat
last night, but this time, instead of writing case, across his knees lay a
musket, and he was busied in setting a flint to the lock.
"Why, sir--what now?" I questioned.
"A musket, lad, and fifty-and-five others in the corner yonder and all
serviceable, which is well."
Now as I stared at him, his bowed figure and long white hair, there was
about him (despite his benevolent expression) a certain grim, fighting look
that set me wondering; moreover, upon the air I heard a stir that seemed
all about us, a faint yet ominous clamour.
"Sir," quoth I, getting to my feet, "what's to do?"
"Battle, Martin!" said he, testing the musket's action.
"Ha!" cried I, catching up my sword. "Are we beset?"
"By an army of Spaniards and hostile Indians, Martin. In the night came
Atlamatzin to say news had come of Indians from the West, ancient enemies
of this people, led on by Spanish soldiers, cavalry and arquebuseros, and
bidding us fly and save ourselves before the battle joined. But you were
asleep, Martin, and besides, it seemed ill in us, that had eaten their
bread, to fly and leave this poor folk to death--and worse--"
"True enough, sir," said I, buckling my weapons about me, "but do you dream
that we, you and I, can hinder such?"
"'Twere at least commendable in us to so endeavour, Martin. Nor is it thing
so impossible, having regard to these fifty-and-five muskets and the brass
cannon, seeing there is powder and shot abundant."
"How then--must we stay and fight?" I demanded. And beholding the grim set
of his mouth and chin, at such odds with his white hair and gentle eyes, I
knew that it must be so indeed.
"'Twas so I thought, Martin," said he a little humbly, and laying his hands
upon my shoulders, "but only for myself, dear lad, I fight better than I
walk, so will I stay and make this my cumbersome body of some little use,
perchance; but as for thee, dear and loved lad, I would have you haste
"Enough, sir," quoth I, catching his hands in mine, "if you must stay to
fight, so do I."
"Tush, Martin!" said he, mighty earnest. "Be reasonable! Atlamatzin hath
vowed, supposing we beat off our assailants, to provide me bearers and
a litter, so shall I travel at mine ease and overtake you very soon;
wherefore, I bid you go--for her sake!"
But finding me no whit moved by this or any other reason he could invent,
he alternate frowned and sighed, and thereafter, slipping his arm in mine,
brought me forth to show me such dispositions as he had caused to be made
for the defence. Thus came we out upon the highest terrace, Pluto at our
heels, and found divers of the Indians labouring amain to fill and set up
baskets of loose earth after the manner of fascines, and showed me where he
had caused them to plant our cannon where it might sweep that stair I have
mentioned, and well screened from the enemy's observation and sheltered
from his fire. And hard beside the gun stood barrels of musket balls, and
round-shot piled very orderly, and beyond these, powder a-plenty in covered
And now he showed me pieces of armour, that is, a vizored headpiece or
armet, with cuirass, backplates, pauldrons and vambraces, all very richly
gilded, the which it seemed he had chosen for my defence.
"So, then, sir, you knew I should stay?"
"Indeed, Martin," he confessed, a little discountenanced, "I guessed you
might." But I (misliking to be so confined) would have none of this gilded
armour until, seeing his distress, I agreed thereto if he would do the
like; so we presently armed each other and I for one mighty hot and
Posted upon this, the highest terrace, at every vantage point were Indians
armed with bows and arrows--men and women, aye and children--and all gazing
ever and anon towards that belt of forest to the West where it seemed
Atlamatzin, with ten chosen warriors, was gone to watch the approach of
the invading host. Presently, from these greeny depths came a distant shot
followed by others in rapid succession, and after some while, forth of the
woods broke six figures that we knew for Atlamatzin and five of the ten, at
sight of whom spear-points glittered and a lusty shout went up.
"See now, Martin," quoth Sir Richard, speaking quick and incisive, a grim
and warlike figure in his armour, for all his stoop and limping gait,
"here's the way on't: let the Indians shoot their arrows as they may (poor
souls!) but we wait until the enemy be a-throng upon the stair yonder, then
we open on them with our cannon here,--'tis crammed to the muzzle with
musket balls; then whiles you reload, I will to my fifty-and-five muskets
yonder and let fly one after t'other, by which time you, having our brass
piece ready, will reload so many o' the muskets as you may and so, God
aiding, we will so batter these merciless Dons they shall be glad to give
over their bloody attempt and leave these poor folk in peace."
As he ended, came Atlamatzin, telling us he had fallen suddenly on the
enemy's van and slain divers of them, showing us his axe bloody, and so
away to hearten his people.
At last, forth of the forest marched the enemy, rank on rank, a seemingly
prodigious company. First rode horsemen a score, and behind these I counted
some sixty musketeers and pikemen as many, marching very orderly and
flashing back the sun from their armour, while behind these again came
plumed Indians beyond count, fierce, wild figures that leapt and shouted
high and shrill very dreadful to hear. On they came, leaping and dancing
from the forest, until it seemed they would never end, nearer and nearer
until we might see their faces and thus behold how these Spaniards talked
and laughed with each other as about a matter of little moment. Indeed, it
angered me to see with what careless assurance these steel-clad Spaniards
advanced against us in their insolent might, and bold in the thought that
they had nought to fear save Indian arrows and lances and they secure
in their armour. Halting below the first terrace, they forthwith began
assault, for whiles divers of the pikemen began to ascend the stairway,
followed by their Indian allies, the musketeers let fly up at us with their
pieces to cover their comrades' advance and all contemptuous of the arrows
discharged against them. But hard beside the cannon stood Sir Richard,
watching keen-eyed, and ever and anon blowing on the slow-match he had
made, waiting until the stairway was choked with the glittering helmets and
tossing feathers of the assailants.
A deafening roar, a belch of flame and smoke that passing, showed a sight
I will not seek to describe; nor did I look twice, but fell to work with
sponge and rammer, loading this death-dealing piece as quickly as I might,
while louder than the awful wailing that came from that gory shambles rose
a wild hubbub from their comrades,--shouts and cries telling their sudden
panic and consternation. But as they stood thus in huddled amaze, Sir
Richard opened on them with his muskets, firing in rapid succession and
with aim so deadly that they forthwith turned and ran for it, nor did they
check or turn until they were out of range. Then back limped Sir Richard,
his cheek flushed, his eyes bright and fierce in the shade of his helmet,
his voice loud and vibrant with the joy of battle, and seeing how far the
gun was recoiled, summoned divers of the Indians to urge it back into
position; while this was doing, down upon this awful stair leapt Atlamatzin
and his fellows and had soon made an end of such wounded as lay there.
"I pray God," cried Sir Richard, harsh-voiced, as he struck flint and steel
to relight his match, "I pray God this may suffice them!"
And beholding the wild disorder of our assailants, I had great hopes this
was so indeed, but as I watched, they reformed their ranks and advanced
again, but with their Indians in the van, who suddenly found themselves
with death before them and behind, for the Spanish musketeers had turned
their pieces against them to force them on to the attacks. So, having no
choice, these poor wretches came on again, leaping and screaming their
battle cries until the stair was a-throng with them; on and up they rushed
until Death met them in roaring flame and smoke. But now all about us was
the hum of bullets, most of which whined harmlessly overhead, though some
few smote the wall behind us. But small chance had I to heed such, being
hard-set to prime and load as, time after time, these poor Indians, driven
on by their cruel masters, rushed, and time after time were swept away; and
thus we fought the gun until the sweat ran from me and I panted and cursed
my stifling armour, stripping it from me piece by piece as occasion
offered. And thus I took a scathe from bullet or splinter of stone, yet
heeded not until I sank down sick and spent and roused to find Pluto
licking my face and thereafter to see Sir Richard kneeling over me, his
goodly armour dinted and scarred by more than one chance bullet.
"Drink!" he commanded, and set water to my lips, the which mightily
"Sir, what o' the fight?" I questioned.
"Done, lad, so far as we are concerned," said he. "Atlamatzin fell upon 'em
with all his powers and routed them--hark!"
Sure enough, I heard the battle roar away into the forest and beyond until,
little by little, it sank to a murmurous hum and died utterly away. But all
about us were other sounds, and getting unsteadily to my legs, I saw the
plain 'twixt town and forest thick-strewn with the fallen.
"So then the town is saved, sir?"
"God be praised, Martin!"
"Why, then, let us on--to meet my dear lady!" But now came an Indian to
bathe my hurt, an ugly tear in my upper arm, whereto he set a certain
balsam and a dressing of leaves and so bound it up very deftly and to my
And now was I seized of a fierce desire to be gone; I burned in a fever to
tramp those weary miles that lay 'twixt me and my lady Joan; wherefore,
heedless alike of my own weakness, of Sir Richard's remonstrances and
weariness, or aught beside in my own fevered desire, I set out forthwith,
seeing, as in a dream, the forms of Indians, men, women and children, who
knelt and cried to us as in gratitude or farewell; fast I strode, all
unmindful of the old man who plodded so patiently, limping as fast as he
might to keep pace with me, heeding but dimly his appeals, his cries,
hasting on and on until, stumbling at last, I sank upon my knees and,
looking about, found myself alone and night coming down upon me apace. Then
was I seized of pity for him and myself and a great yearning for my lady,
and sinking upon my face I wept myself to sleep.
WE RESUME OUR JOURNEY
I waked in a place of trees, very still and quiet save for the crackle of
the fire that blazed near by. Close beside me lay my musket; pendant from
a branch within reach dangled my sword. Hereupon, finding myself thus
solitary, I began to call on Sir Richard and wondered to hear my voice so
weak; yet I persisted in my shouting and after some while heard a joyous
bark, and to me bounded Pluto to rub himself against me and butt at me with
his great head. While I was caressing this good friend, cometh Sir Richard
himself and in his hand a goodly fish much like to a trout.
"Lord, Martin!" said he, sitting beside me, "'tis well art thyself again,
lad. Last evening you must set out, and night upon us, must stride away
like a madman and leave me alone; but for this good dog I should ha' lost
you quite. See now, lad, what I have caught for our breakfast. I was a
notable good angler in the old days and have not lost my cunning, it
Now as he showed me his fish and set about gutting and preparing it, I
could not but mark his drawn and haggard look, despite his brave bearing,
and my heart smote me.
"Sir, you are sick!" quoth I.
"Nay, Martin, I am well enough and able to go on as soon as you will. But
for the present, rest awhile, lest the fever take you again, this cloak
'neath your head--so!"
"What o'clock is it?"
"Scarce noon and the sun very hot."
"How came I here in the shade?"
"I dragged you, Martin. Now sleep, lad, and I'll to my cooking."
At this I protested I had no mind for sleep, yet presently slumbered amain,
only to dream vilely of fire and of Adam and his fellows in desperate
battle, and above the din of fight heard my lady calling on my name as one
in mortal extremity and waking in sweating panic, my throbbing head full of
this evil vision, was for setting out instantly to her succour. But at
Sir Richard's desire I stayed to gulp down such food as he had prepared,
telling him meanwhile of my vision and something comforted by his assurance
that dreams went by contrary. Howbeit, the meal done, we set out once more,
bearing due northeast by the compass Sir Richard had brought from the Maya
city. So we journeyed through this tangled wilderness, my' head full of
strange and evil fancies, cursing the wound that sapped my strength so that
I must stumble for very weakness, yet dreaming ever of my lady's danger,
struggling up and on until I sank to lie and curse or weep because of my
Very evil times were these, wherein I moved in a vague world, sometimes
aware of Sir Richard's patient, plodding form, of the dog trotting before,
of misty mountains, of rushing streams that must be crossed, of glaring
heats and grateful shadow; sometimes I lay dazzled by a blazing sun,
sometimes it was the fire and Sir Richard's travel-worn figure beyond,
sometimes the calm serenity of stars, but ever and always in my mind was
a growing fear, a soul-blasting dread lest our journey be vain, lest the
peril that me thought threatened Joan be before us and we find her dead.
And this cruel thought was like a whip that lashed me to a frenzy, so that
despite wound and weakness I would drive my fainting body on, pursuing the
phantom of her I sought and oft calling miserably upon her name like the
madman I was; all of the which I learned after from Sir Richard. For, of
an early morning I waked to find myself alone, but a fire of sticks burned
brightly and against an adjacent rock stood our two muskets, orderly and to
Now as I gazed about, I was aware of frequent sighings hard by and going
thitherward, beheld Sir Richard upon his knees, absorbed in a passion of
prayer, his furrowed cheeks wet with tears. But beyond this I was struck
with the change in him, his haggard face burned nigh black with fierce
suns, his garments rent and tattered, his poor body more bent and shrunken
than I had thought. Before him sat Pluto, wagging his tail responsive
to every passionate gesture of those reverently clasped hands, but
who, espying me, uttered his deep bark and came leaping to welcome me;
whereupon, seeing I was discovered, I went to Sir Richard and, his prayer
ended, lifted him in my arms.
"Ah, Martin, dear lad," said he, embracing me likewise, "surely God hath
answered my prayer. You are yourself again." And now, he sitting beside the
fire whiles I prepared such food as we had, he told me how for five days
I had been as one distraught, wandering haphazard and running like any
madman, calling upon my lady's name, and that he should have lost me but
for the dog.
"Alas, dear sir," quoth I, abashed by this recital, "I fear in my fool's
madness I have worn you out and nigh beyond endurance."
"Nay, Martin," said he, "it doth but teach me what I knew, that lusty youth
and feeble age are ill travelling companions, for needs must you go, your
soul ever ahead of you, yet schooling your pace to mine, and for this I
do love you so that I would I were dead and you free to speed on your
"Never say so, dear father," quoth I, folding my arm about his drooping
form, "my strength shall be yours henceforth."
And presently he grew eager to be gone, but seeing me unwilling, grew the
more insistent to travel so far as we might before the scorching heats
should overtake us. So we started, I carrying his musket beside my own and
despite his remonstrances.
An evil country this, destitute of trees and all vegetation save small
bushes few and prickly cactus a-many, a desolation of grim and jagged rocks
and barren, sandy wastes full of sun-glare and intolerable heat. And now,
our water being gone, we began to be plagued with thirst and a great host
of flies so bold as to settle on our mouths, nostrils and eyes, so that we
must be for ever slapping and brushing them away. Night found us faint and
spent and ravenous for water and none to be found, and to add further to
our agonies, these accursed flies were all about us still, singing and
humming, and whose bite set up a tickling itch, so that what with these and
our thirst we got little or no rest.
"Martin," said Sir Richard, hearing me groan, "we should be scarce four
days from the sea by my reckoning--"
"Aye," said I, staring up at the glory of stars, "but how if we come on no
water? Our journey shall end the sooner, methinks."
"True, Martin," said he, "but we are sure to find water soon or late--"
"God send it be soon!" I groaned. Here he sets himself to comfort Pluto who
lay betwixt us, panting miserably, with lolling tongue or snapping fiercely
at these pestilent flies.
And thus we lay agonising until the moon rose and then, by common consent,
we stumbled on, seeking our great desire. And now as I went, my mouth
parched, my tongue thickening to the roof of my mouth, I must needs think
of plashing brooks, of bubbling rills, of sweet and pellucid streams, so
that my torment was redoubled, yet we dared not stop, even when day came.
Then forth of a pitiless heaven blazed a cruel sun to scorch us, thereby
adding to this agony of thirst that parched us where we crawled with
fainting steps, our sunken eyes seeking vainly for the kindly shade of some
tree in this arid desolation. And always was my mind obsessed by that
dream of gurgling brooks and bubbling rills; and now I would imagine I was
drinking long, cool draughts, and thrusting leathern tongue 'twixt cracking
lips, groaned in sharper agony. So crept we on, mile after mile, hoping the
next would show us some blessed glimpse of water, and always disappointed
until at last it seemed that here was our miserable end.
"Martin," gasped Sir Richard, sinking in my failing clasp, his words scarce
articulate, "I can go no farther--leave me, sweet son--'tis better I die
here--go you on--"
"No!" groaned I, and seeing Sir Richard nigh to swooning, I took him in my
arms. Reeling and staggering I bore him on, my gaze upon a few scattered
rocks ahead of us where we might at least find shade from this murderous
sun. Thus I struggled on until my strength failed and I sank to this
burning sand where it seemed we were doomed to perish after all, here in
this pitiless wild where even the dog had deserted us. And seeing Death so
near, I clasped Sir Richard ever closer and strove to tell him something of
my love for him, whereupon he raised one feeble hand to touch my drooping
Now as I babbled thus, I heard a lazy flap of wings and lifting weary eyes,
beheld divers of these great birds that, settling about, hopped languidly
towards us and so stood to watch us, raffling their feathers and croaking
hoarsely. So I watched them, and well-knowing what they portended, drew
forth a pistol and, cocking it, had it ready to hand. But as I did so they
broke into shrill clamour and, rising on heavy wings, soared away as came
Pluto to leap about us, uttering joyous barks and butting at us with his
head. And then I saw him all wet, nay, as I gazed on him, disbelieving my
eyes, he shook himself, sprinkling us with blessed water. Somehow I was
upon my feet and, taking Sir Richard's swooning body across my shoulder,
I stumbled on towards that place of rocks, Pluto running on before and
turning ever and anon to bark, as bidding me hasten. So at last, panting
and all foredone, came I among these rocks and saw them open to a narrow
cleft that gave upon a gorge a-bloom with flowers, a very paradise; and
here, close to hand, a little pool fed by a rill or spring that bubbled up
amid these mossy rocks.
So took I this life-giving water in my two hands and dashed it in Sir
Richard's face, and he, opening his eyes, uttered a hoarse cry of rapture.
And so we drank, kneeling side by side. Yet our throats and tongues so
swollen we could scarce swallow at the first, and yet these scant drops a
very ecstasy. But when I would have drunk my fill, Sir Richard stayed
me lest I do myself an injury and I, minding how poor souls had killed
themselves thus, drank but moderately as he bade me, yet together we
plunged our heads and arms into this watery delight, praising God and
laughing for pure joy and thankfulness. Then, the rage of our thirst
something appeased, we lay down within this shadow side by side and
presently fell into a most blessed slumber.
I waked suddenly to a piteous whining and, starting up, beheld Pluto
crawling towards me, his flank transfixed with an Indian arrow. Up I sprang
to wake Sir Richard and peer down into the shadowy gorge below, but saw
no more than flowering thickets and bush-girt rock. But as I gazed thus,
musket in hand, Sir Richard gave fire and while the report yet rang and
echoed, I saw an Indian spring up from amid these bushes and go rolling
down into the thickets below.
"One, Martin!" quoth Sir Richard and, giving me his piece to reload, turned
to minister to Pluto's hurt. Where he lay whining and whimpering. Suddenly
an arrow struck the rock hard beside me and then came a whizzing shower,
whereupon we took such shelter as offered and whence we might retort upon
them with our shot. And after some while, as we lay thus, staring down into
the gorge, came the report of a musket and a bullet whipped betwixt us.
"Lord, Martin!" quoth Sir Richard cheerily, his eyes kindling. "It was
vastly unwise to fall asleep by this well in so thirsty a country; 'tis a
known place and much frequented, doubtless. Wisdom doth urge a retreat so
soon as you have filled our water bottles; meantime I will do all I may to
dissuade our assailants from approaching too near."
So saying, he levelled his piece and, dwelling on his aim, fired, whiles
I, screened from bullets and arrows alike, filled our flasks and doing
so, espied a small cave, excellent suited to our defence and where two
determined men might hold in check a whole army.
Hereupon I summoned Sir Richard who, seeing this cave commanded the gorge
and might only be carried in front, approved it heartily, so thither we
repaired, taking Pluto with us and him very woful. And lying thus in our
little fort we laid out our armament, that is, our two muskets and four
pistols, and took stock of our ammunition, I somewhat dashed to find we had
but thirty charges betwixt us, the pistols included. Sir Richard, on the
other hand, seemed but the more resolute and cheery therefor.
"For look now, Martin," said he, cocking his musket and levelling it
betwixt the boulders we had piled to our better defence, "here we have
fifteen lives, or say twenty, though you are better with sword than musket
I take it; should these not suffice, then we have two excellent swords
and lastly our legs, indifferent bad as regards mine own, but in a little
'twill be black dark, the moon doth not rise till near dawn. So here are we
snug for the moment and very able to our defence these many hours, God be
thanked!" And thus he of his own indomitable spirit cheered me. Suddenly he
pulled trigger and as the smoke cleared I saw his bullet had sped true, for
amid certain rocks below us a man rose up, clad in Spanish half-armour, and
sinking forward, lay there motionless, plain to our view.
"Two!" quoth Sir Richard, and fell to reloading his piece, wadding the
charge with strips from his ragged garments.
The fall of this Spaniard caused no little stir among our unseen
assailants, for the air rang with fierce outcries and the shrill battle
hootings of the Indians, and a shower of arrows rattled among the rocks
about us and thereafter a volley of shot, and no scathe to us.
"War is a hateful thing!" quoth Sir Richard suddenly. "See yon Spaniard I
shot, God forgive me--hark how he groaneth, poor soul!" And he showed me
the Spaniard, who writhed ever and anon where he lay across the rock and
wailed feebly for water. "Methinks 'twere merciful to end his sufferings,
"Mayhap, sir, though we have few enough charges to spare!"
"Thus speaketh cold prudence and common sense, Martin, and yet--"
But here the matter was put beyond dispute for, even as Sir Richard
levelled his musket, the wounded Spaniard slipped and rolled behind the
rock and lay quite hid save for a hand and arm that twitched feebly ever
"And he was crying for water!" sighed Sir Richard, "Thirst is an agony, as
we do know. Hark, he crieth yet! Twere act commendable to give drink to a
dying man, enemy though he be."
"Most true, sir, but--nay, what would you?" I said, grasping his arm as he
made to rise.
"Endeavour as much good as I may in the little of life left to me, Martin.
The poor soul lieth none so far and--"
"Sir--sir!" quoth I, tightening my hold. "You would be shot ere you had
gone a yard--are ye mad indeed or--do you seek death?" Now at this he was
silent, and I felt him trembling.
"This is as God willeth, Martin!" said he at last. "Howbeit I must go;
prithee loose me, dear lad!"
"Nay!" cried I harshly. "If you will have our enemy drink, I shall bear it
"No, no!" cried he, grappling me in turn as I rose. "What I may do you
cannot--be reasonable, Martin--you bulk so much greater than I, they cannot
fail of such a mark--"
Now as we argued the matter thus, each mighty determined, Pluto set up a
joyous barking and, rising on three legs, stood with ears cocked and tail
wagging, the which put me in no small perplexity until, all at once,
certain bushes that grew hard by swayed gently and forth of the leaves
stepped an Indian clad for battle, like a great chief or cacique (as 'tis
called) for on arm and breast and forehead gold glittered, and immediately
we knew him for Atlamatzin.
"Greeting to ye, father and brother!" said he, saluting us in his grave and
stately fashion. "Atlamatzin and his people are full of gratitude to ye and
because ye are great and notable warriors, scornful of the white man's God,
Atlamatzin and his warriors have followed to do ye homage and bring ye safe
to your journey's end, and finding ye, lo! we find also our enemies, whose
eyes seeing nought but ye two, behold nought of the death that creepeth
about them; so now, when the shadow shall kiss the small rock yonder, do
you make your thunder and in that moment shall Atlamatzin smite them to
their destruction and, if the gods spare him, shall surely find ye again
that are his father and brother!"
Something thus spake he below his breath in his halting Spanish, very grave
and placid, then saluting us, was gone swift and silent as he came.
"An inch!" quoth Sir Richard, pointing to the creeping shadow and so we
watched this fateful shade until it was come upon the rock, whereupon I
let off my piece and Sir Richard a moment after, and like an echo to
these shots rose sudden dreadful clamour, shouts, the rapid discharge of
firearms; but wilder, fiercer, and louder than all the shrill and awful
Indian battle cry. And now, on bush-girt slopes to right and left was
bitter strife, a close-locked fray that burst suddenly asunder and swirled
down till pursued and pursuer were lost amid that tangle of blooming
thickets where it seemed the battle clamoured awhile, then roared away as
the enemy broke and fled before the sudden furious onset of Atlamatzin's
As for us, we lay within our refuge, nor stirred until this din of conflict
was but a vague murmur, for though we might see divers of the fallen where
they lay, these neither stirred nor made any outcry since it seemed their
business was done effectually.
"And now, Martin," said Sir Richard, rising, "'tis time we got hence lest
any of our assailants come a-seeking us."
So being out of the cave, I set myself to see that we had all our gear to
hand, to empty and refill my flask with this good water and the like until,
missing Sir Richard, I turned to behold him already hard upon that rock
where lay the wounded Spaniard, Pluto limping at his heels. Being come to
the rock, Sir Richard unslung his water bottle and stopped, was blotted out
in sudden smoke-cloud, and, even as the report reached me, I began to run,
raving like any madman; and thus, panting out prayers and curses, I came
where stood Sir Richard leaning against this rock, one hand clasped to his
side, and the fingers of this hand horribly red. And now I was aware of a
shrill screaming that, ending suddenly, gave place to dreadful snarling and
worrying sound, but heedless of aught but Sir Richard's wound, I ran to
bear him in my arms as he fell.
"Oh, Martin," said he faintly, looking up at me with his old brave smile,
"'tis come at last--my journeying is done--"
Scarce knowing what I did, I gathered him to my bosom and bore him back to
the cave; and now, when I would have staunched his hurt, he shook feeble
"Let be, dear lad," said he, "nought shall avail--not all your care and
love--for here is friend Death at last come to lift me up to a merciful
None the less I did all that I might for his hurt save to probe for the
pistol ball that was gone too deep. And presently, as I knelt beside him in
a very agony of helplessness, cometh Pluto, fouled with blood other than
his own, and limping hither, cast himself down, his great paw across Sir
Richard's legs, licking at those weary feet that should tramp beside us no
farther. And thus night found us.
"Martin," said Sir Richard suddenly, his voice strong, "bear me out where I
may behold the stars, for I--ever loved them and the wonder of them--even
in my--unregenerate days." So I bore him without, and indeed the heavens
were a glory.
"Dear lad," said he, clasping my hand, "grieve not that I die, for Death
is my friend--hath marched beside me these many weary miles, yet spared me
long enough to know and love you ever better for the man you are.--Now as
to Joan, my daughter, I--grieve not to see her--but--God's will be done,
lad, Amen. And because I knew I must die here in Darien, I writ her a
letter--'tis here in my bosom--give it her, saying I--ever loved her
greatly more than I let her guess and that--by my sufferings I was a
something better man, being--humbler, gentler, and of--a contrite heart.
And now, Martin--thou that didst forgive and love thine enemy, saving him
at thine own peril and using him as thy dear friend--my time is come--I go
into the infinite--Death's hand is on me but--a kindly hand--lifting me--to
my God--my love shall go with ye--all the way--you and her--alway. Into Thy
hands, O Lord!"
And thus died my enemy, like the brave and noble gentleman he was, his head
pillowed upon my bosom, his great soul steadfast and unfearing to the last.
And I, a lost and desolate wretch, wept at my bitter loss and cried out
against the God who had snatched from me this the only man I had ever truly
loved and honoured. And bethinking me of his patient endurance, I thought
I might have been kinder and more loving in many ways and to my grief was
added bitter self-reproaches.
At last, the day appearing, I arose and, taking up my dead, bore him down
to the gorge and presently came upon a quiet spot unsullied by the foulness
of battle; and here, amid the glory of these blooming thickets, I laid him
to his last rest, whiles Pluto watched me, whining ever and anon. And when
I had made an end, I fell on my knees and would have prayed, yet could not.
So back went I at last, slow-footed, to the cave and thus came on Sir
Richard's letter, it sealed and superscribed thus:
Unto my loved daughter, Joan Brandon,
And beholding this beloved name, a great heart-sickness came on me with a
vision of a joy I scarce dared think on that had been mine but for my blind
selfishness and stubborn will; and with this was a knowledge of all the
wasted years and a loss unutterable. And thus my grief took me again, so
that this letter was wetted with tears of bitter remorse.
At last I arose (the letter in my bosom) and girding my weapons about me
(choosing that musket had been Sir Richard's) stood ready to begone. But
now, missing the dog, I called to him, and though he howled in answer,
he came not, wherefore following his outcries, they brought me to Sir
Richard's grave and Pluto crouched thereby, whimpering. At my command he
limped towards me a little way, then crawled back again, and this he did as
often as I called, wherefore at last I turned away and, setting forth in my
loneliness, left these two together.
I MEET A MADMAN
Having taken my bearings, I set off at speed nor did I stay for rest or
refreshment until I had traversed many miles and the sun's heat was grown
nigh intolerable. So I halted in such shade as the place offered and having
eaten and drunk, I presently fell asleep and awoke to find the day far
spent and to look around for Sir Richard as had become my wont. And finding
him not, in rushed memory to smite me anew with his death, so that I must
needs fall to thinking of his lonely grave so far behind me in these wilds;
wherefore in my sorrow I bitterly cursed this land of cruel heat, of
quenchless thirst and trackless, weary ways, and falling on my knees, I
prayed as I had never prayed, humbly and with no thought of self, save that
God would guide me henceforth and make me more worthy the great health and
strength wherewith He had blessed me, and, if it so pleased Him, bring me
safe at last to my dear lady's love. Thus after some while I arose and went
my solitary way, and it seemed that I was in some ways a different and a
better man, by reason of Sir Richard his death and my grief therefor.
And as the darkness of night deepened about me and I striding on, guided by
the dim-seen needle of my compass, often I would fancy Sir Richard's loved
form beside me or the sound of his limping step in my ear, so that in the
solitude of this vasty wilderness I was not solitary, since verily his love
seemed all about me yet, even as he had promised.
All this night I travelled apace nor stayed until I fell for very weariness
and lying there, ate such food as I had, not troubling to light a fire, and
fell asleep. Now as I lay, it seemed that Sir Richard stood above me, his
arm reached out as to fend from me some evil thing, yet when he spoke,
voice and words were those of Joanna:
"Hola, Martino fool, and must I be for ever saving your life?"
And now I saw it was Joanna indeed who stood there, clad in her male
attire, hand on hip, all glowing, insolent beauty; but as I stared she
changed, and I saw her as I had beheld her last, her gown and white bosom
all dabbled with her blood, but on her lips was smile ineffably tender and
in her eyes the radiance of a joy great beyond all telling.
"Lover Martino," said she, bending above me, "I went for you to death,
unfearing, for only the dead do know the perfect love, since death is more
than life, so is my love around you for ever--wake, beloved!"
Herewith she bent and touched me and, waking, I saw this that touched
me was no more than the leafy end of a branch 'neath which I chanced to
lie,--but pendant from this swaying branch I espied a monstrous shape that
writhed toward me in the dimness; beholding which awful, silent thing I
leapt up, crying out for very horror and staying but to snatch my gun, sped
from this evil place, nigh sick with dread and loathing.
The moon was up, dappling these gloomy shades with her pure light and as I
sped, staring fearfully about me, I espied divers of these great serpents
twisted among the boughs overhead, and monstrous bat-like shapes that
flitted hither and thither so that I ran in sweating panic until the
leafage, above and around me, thinning out, showed me the full splendour
of this tropic moon and a single great tree that soared mightily aloft to
thrust out spreading branches high in air. Now as I approached this, I
checked suddenly and, cocking my musket, called out in fierce challenge,
for round the bole of this tree peeped the pallid oval of a face; thrice I
summoned, and getting no answer, levelled and fired point-blank, the
report of my piece waking a thousand echoes and therewith a chattering and
screeching from the strange beasts that stirred in the denser woods about
me; and there (maugre my shot), there, I say, was the face peering at
me evilly as before. But now something in its stark and utter stillness
clutched me with new dread as, slinging my musket and drawing pistol, I
crept towards this pallid, motionless thing and saw it for a face indeed,
with mouth foolishly agape, and presently beheld this for a man fast-bound
to the tree and miserably dead by torture. And coming near this awful,
writhen form, I apprehended something about it vaguely familiar, and
suddenly (being come close) saw this poor body was clad as an English
sailor; perceiving which, I shivered in sudden dread and made haste to
recharge my musket, spilling some of my precious powder in my hurry, and so
hasting from this awful thing with this new dread gnawing at my heart.
Presently before me rose steepy crags very wild and desolate, but nowhere a
tree to daunt me. Here I halted and my first thought to light a fire, since
the gloomy thickets adjacent and the sombre forests beyond were full of
unchancy noises, stealthy rustlings, shrill cries and challengings very
dismal to hear. But in a while, my fire burning brightly, sword loose in
scabbard, musket across my knee and my back 'gainst the rock, I fell to
pondering my dream and the wonder of it, of Joanna and her many noble
qualities, of her strange, tempestuous nature; and lifting my gaze to the
wonder of stars, it seemed indeed that she, though dead, yet lived and
must do so for ever, even as these quenchless lights of heaven; and thus I
revolved the mystery of life and death until sleep stole upon me.
I waked suddenly to snatch up my musket and peer at the dim figure sitting
motionless beyond the dying fire, then, as a long arm rose in salutation,
lowered my weapon, mighty relieved to recognise the Indian, Atlamatzin.
"Greeting, my brother," quoth he; "all yesterday I followed on thy track,
but my brother is swift and Atlamatzin weary of battle."
"And what of the battle?"
"Death, my brother: as leaves of the forest lie the Maya warriors, but of
our enemies none return. So am I solitary, my work done, and solitary go I
to Pachacamac that lieth beside the Great Sea. But there is an empty place
betwixt us, brother--what of the old cacique so cunning in battle--what of
Here, as well as I might, I told him of Sir Richard's cruel murder; at this
he was silent a great while, staring sombrely into the fire. Suddenly he
started and pointed upward at a great, flitting shape that hovered above us
and sprang to his feet as one sore affrighted, whereupon I told him this
was but a bat (though of monstrous size) and could nothing harm us.
"Nay, brother, here is Zotzilaha Chimalman that reigneth in the House of
Bats, for though Atlamatzin was born without fear, yet doth he respect the
gods, in especial Zotzilaha Chimalman!"
Now hereupon, seeing the dawn was at hand, I rose, nor waited a second
bidding for, gods or no, this seemed to me a place abounding in terrors and
strange evils, and I mighty glad of this Indian's fellowship. So up I rose,
tightening my girdle, but scarce had I shouldered my musket than I stood
motionless, my heart a-leaping, staring towards a certain part of the
surrounding woods whence had sounded a sudden cry. And hearkening to this,
back rushed that sick dread I had known already, for this was a human cry,
very desolate and wistful, and the words English:
"Jeremy, ahoy--oho, Jeremy!"
Breaking the spell that numbed me, I made all haste to discover the
wherefore of these dolorous sounds and plunged into the noxious gloom of
the woods, Atlamatzin hard on my heels; and ever as we went, guided by
these hoarse shouts, the dawn lightened about us.
Thus presently I espied a forlorn figure afar off, crouched beneath a tree,
a strange, wild figure that tossed a knife from hand to hand and laughed
and chattered 'twixt his shouting.
"Ahoy, Jerry, I'm all adrift--where be you? I'm out o' my soundings,
lad--'tis me--'tis Dick--your old messmate as drank many a pint wi' you
alongside Deptford Pool--Ahoy, Jeremy!"
Now espying us where we stood, he scrambled to his feet, peering at us,
through his tangled hair: then, dropping his knife, comes running, his arms
outstretched, then checks as suddenly and stares me over with a cunning
"Avast, Dick!" said he, smiting himself on ragged breast. "This bean't poor
Jerry--poor Jerry ain't half his size--a little man be Jeremy, not so big
as Sir Adam--"
"Who!" cried I and, dropping my gun, I caught him by his ragged sleeve,
whereupon he grinned foolishly, then as suddenly scowled and wrenched free.
"Speak, man!" said I in passionate pleading. "Is it Sir Adam Penfeather you
"Maybe I do an' maybe I don't, so all's one!" said he. "Howsomever, 'tis
Jerry I'm arter--my mate Jeremy as went adrift from me--my mate Jerry as
could sing so true, but I was the lad to dance!" And here he must needs
fall a-dancing in his rags, singing hoarsely:
"Heave-ho, lads, and here's my ditty!
Saw ye e'er in town or city
A lass to kiss so sweet an' pretty
As Bess o' Bednall Green.
"Heave-ho, lads, she's one to please ye
Bess will kiss an' Bess will--"
"Oho, Jerry--Jeremy--ahoy--haul your wind, lad; bear up, Jerry, an' let
Dick come 'longside ye, lad--!" and here the poor wretch, from singing and
dancing, falls to doleful wailing with gush of tears and bitter sobs.
"Tell me," said I as gently as I might and laying a hand on his hairy
shoulder, "who are you--the name of your ship--who was your captain?"
But all I got was a scowl, a sudden buffet of his fist, and away he sped,
raising again his hoarse and plaintive cry:
"Ahoy, Jerry--Jeremy, ho!"
And thus, my mind in a ferment, I must needs watch him go, torn at by
briars, tripped by unseen obstacles, running and leaping like the poor, mad
thing he was.
Long I stood thus in painful perplexity, when I heard a sudden dreadful
screaming at no great distance:
"Oh, Jerry--Oh, Jerry, lad--what ha' they done to thee--Oh, Christ Jesus!"
Then came a ringing shot, and guessing what this was I turned away,
"Atlamatzin," said I, taking up my musket, "you spake truth--verily this
place is accursed--come, let us begone!"
For long hours I strode on, scarce heeding my silent companion or aught
else, my mind pondering the mention this poor, mad wretch had made of "Sir
Adam," and ever my trouble grew, for if he and the dead man Jeremy were
indeed of Adam's company (the which I suspected) how should they come thus
lost in the wild, except Adam had met with some disaster, and were this
truly so indeed, then what of my dear and gentle lady? And now I must needs
picture to myself Adam slain, his men scattered and, for Joan, such horrors
that it was great wonder I did not run mad like this poor, lost mariner.
Tormented thus of my doubts and most horrid speculations, I went at furious
speed, yet ever my fears grew the more passionate until it grew beyond
enduring and I sighed and groaned, insomuch that my Indian comrade stood
off, eyeing me askance where I had cast myself miserably beside the way.
"My brother is haunted by the evil spirits sent abroad for his destruction
by Chimalman, so shall he presently run mad and become sacred to Zotzilaha
Chimalman and suddenly die, except he obey me. For I, Atlamatzin, that am
without fear and wise in the magic of my people, shall drive hence these
devils an ye will."
"Do aught you will," groaned I, "if you can but rid me of evil fancies and
Forthwith he kindled a fire and I, watching dull and abstracted, being full
of my trouble, was aware of him cracking and bruising certain herbs or
leaves he had plucked, mingling these with brownish powder from the
deerskin pouch he bore at his girdle, which mixture he cast upon the fire,
whence came a smoke very sweet and pungent that he fanned towards me.
"Behold my smoke, brother!" saith he, his voice suddenly loud and
commanding, "smell of it and watch how it doth thicken and close about
thee!" And verily as I looked, I saw nought but a column of whirling smoke
that grew ever more dense and in it, this loud compelling voice.
"Hearken, my brother, to the voices of thy good angels; behold and see
truth afar--" The loud voice died away and in its place came another, and I
knew that Joanna spoke to me out of this whirling smoke cloud.
"Oh, Martino, hast thou so little faith to think my blood spilt in vain?
Did I not give thee unto her that waiteth, living but for thee, yes? Look
I saw a gleam of metal amid the green and four ship's culverins or
demi-cannon mounted on rough, wheeled carriages and hauled at by
wild-looking men, who toiled and sweated amain, for the way was difficult
and their ordnance heavy; and amongst these men one very quick and active,
very masterful of look and imperious of gesture, a small man in battered
harness, and knowing him for Adam, I would have hailed him, but even then
he was gone and nought to see but this writhing smoke cloud.
I beheld a great, orbed moon, very bright and clear, and slumbering in this
calm radiance a goodly city with a harbour where rode many ships great and
small, and beside this harbour, defending these ships and the city itself,
a notable strong castle or fort, high-walled and embattled, with great
ordnance mounted both landward and towards the sea. And nigh upon this fort
I beheld the stealthy forms of men, toilworn and ragged, whose battered,
rusty armour glinted ever and anon as they crept in two companies advancing
to right and left. Behind these, masked in the brush on the edge of the
forest, four demi-cannon with gunners to serve them, foremost of whom was
a short, squat fellow who crept from gun to gun, and him I knew for Godby.
And presently from these four guns leapt smoke and flame to batter and
burst asunder the postern gate of the fort, and through this ruin I saw
Adam leap, sword in hand, his desperate company hard on his heels.
I saw a great galleon spread her sails against the moon, and the red glare
of her broadside flame against the town as, squaring her yards, she bore
away for the open sea.
I saw the deck of a ship, deserted save for one desolate figure that stood
gazing ever in the one direction; and as I watched, eager-eyed, this lonely
figure knelt suddenly and reached towards me yearning arms, and I saw this
was my beloved Joan. Now would I have leapt to those empty arms, but the
smoke blinded me again, and in this smoke I heard the voice of Joanna.
"Oh, Martino, thou that love doth make coward, be comforted and of good
courage, for: thy happiness is hers--and mine, yes!"
So I presently waked and, staring about me, started up amazed to see it was
dawn and the sun rising already, and beyond the fire the sombre form of
"Are the evil spirits fled from my brother?" he questioned.
"Indeed," said I, "I have dreamed wonderfully and to my great comfort."
"Great is the magic of Atlamatzin!" quoth he. "'Tis secret that shall die
with him and that soon, for now must he begone to achieve his destiny. As
for thee--yonder, a day's journey, lieth the Great Water. May Kukulcan have
thee in his care, he that is Father of Life--fare ye well."
But at this, seeing him on his feet, I rose also, to grasp his hand, asking
whither he went. For answer he pointed to the trackless wild and then
raised his finger to the sun that was flooding the world with his
"Brother," said Atlamatzin, pointing to this glory, "I go back whence I
came, back to Kukulcan that some so call Quetzalcoati, back to the Father
So saying, he lifted hand aloft in salutation and turning, strode away due
east, so that his form was swallowed up (as it were) in this radiant glory.
HOW I FOUND MY BELOVED AT LAST
Left alone, I broke my fast with such food as I had, meanwhile meditating
upon the visions of last night, debating within myself if this were indeed
a marvel conjured up of Atlamatzin his black magic, or no more than a dream
of my own tortured mind, to the which I found no answer, ponder the matter
how I might.
None the less I found myself much easier, the haunting fear clean lifted
from me; nay, in my heart sang Hope, blithe as any bird, for the which
comfort I did not fail humbly to thank God.
I now consulted my compass and decided to bear up more northerly lest I
strike too far east and thus overshoot that bay Adam had marked on his
chart. So having collected my gear, I took my musket in the crook of my arm
and set out accordingly.
Before me was a wild, rolling country that rose, level on level, very thick
of brush and thickets so tangled that I must oft win me a path by dint of
mine axe. Yet I struggled on as speedily as I might (maugre this arduous
labour and the sun's heat) for more than once amid the thousand heavy
scents of flower and herb and tree, I thought to catch the sweet, keen tang
of the sea.
All this day I strode resolutely forward, scarce pausing to eat or drink,
nor will I say more of this day's journey except that the sun was setting
as I reached the top of a wooded eminence and, halting suddenly, fell upon
my knees and within me such a joy as I had seen the gates of paradise
opening to receive me; for there, all glorious with the blaze of sunset,
lay the ocean at last. And beholding thus my long and weary journey so
nearly ended, and bethinking me how many times God had preserved me and
brought me safe through so many dire perils of this most evil country, I
bowed my head and strove to tell Him my heart's gratitude. My prayer ended
(and most inadequate!) I began to run, my weariness all forgot, the breath
of the sea sweet in my nostrils, nor stayed until I might look down on the
foaming breakers far below and hear their distant roar.
Long stood I, like one entranced, for from this height I could make out
the blue shapes of several islands and beyond these a faint blur upon the
horizon, the which added greatly to my comfort and delight, since this I
knew must be the opposite shore of Terra Firma or the Main, and this great
body of water the Gulf of Darien itself. And so came night.
All next day I followed the coast, keeping the sea upon my left, looking
for some such landlocked harbourage with its cliff shaped like a lion's
head as Adam had described, yet though I was at great pains (and no small
risk to my neck) to peer down into every bay I came upon, nowhere did I
discover any such bay or cliff as bore out his description; thus night
found me eager to push on, yet something despondent and very weary. So I
lighted my fire and ate my supper, harassed by a growing dread lest I was
come too far to the east, after all.
And presently up came the moon in glory; indeed, never do I remember seeing
it so vivid bright, its radiance flashing back from the waters far below
and showing tree and bush and precipitous cliff, very sharp and clear. Upon
my left, as I sat, the jagged coast line curved away out to sea, forming
thus the lofty headland I had traversed scarce an hour since, that rose
sheer from the moon-dappled waters, a huge, shapeless bluff. Now after some
while I arose, and seeing the moon so glorious, shouldered my gun, minded
to seek a little further before I slept. I had gone thus but a few yards,
my gaze now on the difficult path before me, now upon the sea, when,
chancing to look towards the bluff I have mentioned, I stopped to stare
amazed, for in this little distance, this formless headland, seen from
this angle, had suddenly taken a new shape and there before me, plain and
manifest, was the rough semblance of a lion's head; and I knew that betwixt
it and the high cliff whereon I stood must be Adam's excellent secure
haven. This sudden discovery filled me with such an ecstacy that I fell
a-trembling, howbeit I began to quest here and there for some place where I
might get me down whence I might behold this bay and see if Adam's ship
lay therein. And in a little, finding such a place, I began to descend and
found it so easy and secure it seemed like some natural stair, and I did
not doubt that Adam and his fellows had belike used it as such ere now.
At last I came where I could look down into a narrow bay shut in by these
high, bush-girt cliffs and floored with gleaming, silver sand, whose
waters, calm and untroubled, mirrored the serene moon, and close under the
dense shadows of these cliffs I made out the loom of a great ship. Hereupon
I looked no more, but gave all my attention to hands and feet, and so,
slipping and stumbling in my eagerness, got me down at last and began
running across these silvery sands. But as I approached the ship where she
lay now plain in my view, I saw her topmasts were gone, and beholding
the ruin of her gear and rigging, I grew cold with sudden dread and came
She lay upon an even keel, her forefoot deep-buried in the shifting sand
that had silted about her with the tide, and beholding her paint and
gilding blackened and scorched by fire, her timbers rent and scarred by
shot, I knew this fire-blackened, shattered wreck would never sail again.
And now as I viewed this dismal ruin, I prayed this might be some strange
ship rather than that I had come so far a-seeking and, so praying, waded
out beneath her lofty stern (the tide being low) and, gazing up, read as
much of her name as the searing fire had left: viz:
D E L.... A N C E
And hereupon, knowing her indeed for Adam's ship, I took to wandering round
about her, gazing idly up at this pitiful ruin, until there rushed upon me
the realisation of what all this meant. Adam was dead or prisoner, and my
dear lady lost to me after all; my coming was too late.
And now a great sickness took me, my strength deserted me and, groaning, I
sank upon the sand and lying thus, yearned amain for death. Then I heard a
sound, and lifting heavy head, beheld one who stood upon the bulwark above
me, holding on by a backstay with one hand and pistol levelled down at me
in the other. And beholding this slender, youthful figure thus outlined
against the moon, the velvet coat brave with silver lace, the ruffles at
throat and wrist, the silken stockings and buckled shoes, I knew myself
surely mad, for this I saw was Joanna--alive and breathing.
"Shoot!" I cried, "Death has reft from me all I loved--shoot!"