Part 4 out of 5
how long that will be) there is more important work to be done."
"To bury the dead--"
"It is one of the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy, Senorita, and it won
Raphael to the house of Tobit. But in this instance Raphael shuts
himself up and we must go to him. While Teresa lived, all was well:
but now, with two lives depending on my wits, and my wits not to be
depended on for an hour, it does not suit with my conscience to lose
time in finding you another protector."
"But _they--they_ have gone?"
"The Lutheran dogs have gone, and have taken the city's victuals with
"I do not want to live, my friend."
"Granted: but I do not think that Juanito, here, is quite of your
She considered for a moment. "I will go with you," she said: and we
quitted the _patio_ together.
The gate opened upon a narrow alley, encumbered now with charred beams
and heaps of refuse from a burnt house across the way. The fury of the
pirates had been extravagant, but careless (as Felipe had said). In
their lust of robbing, firing, murdering, they had followed no system;
and so it happened that a few houses, even wealthy ones, stood intact,
like islands, in the general ruin. For the most part, to be sure,
there were houses which hid their comfort behind mean walls. But once
or twice we were fairly staggered by the blind rage which had passed
over a mansion crowded with valuables and wrecked a dozen poor
habitations all around it. The mischief was that from such houses
Felipe, our forager, brought reports of wealth to make the mouth
water, but nothing to stay the stomach. The meat in the larders was
putrid; the bread hard as a stone. We were thankful at last for a few
oranges, on which we snatched a breakfast in an angle of ruined wall
on the north side of the Cathedral, pricking up our ears at the baying
of the dogs as they hunted their food somewhere in the northern
I confess that the empty houses gave me the creeps, staring down at me
with their open windows while I sucked my orange. In the rooms behind
those windows lay dead bodies, no doubt: some mutilated, some swollen
with the plague (for during a fortnight now the plague had been busy);
all lying quiet up there, with the sun staring in on them. Each window
had a meaning in its eye, and was trying to convey it. "If you could
only look through me," one said. "The house is empty--come upstairs
and see." For me that was an uncomfortable meal. Felipe, too, had lost
some of his spirits. The fact is, we had been forced to step aside to
pass more than one body stretched at length or huddled in the roadway,
and--well, I have told you about the dogs.
Between the Cathedral and the quays scarcely a house remained: for the
whole of this side of the city had been built of wood. But beyond this
smoking waste we came to the great stone warehouses by the waterside,
and the barracks where the Genoese traders lodged their slaves. The
shells of these buildings stood, but every one had been gutted and
the roofs of all but two or three had collapsed. We picked our way
circumspectly now, for here had been the buccaneers' headquarters.
But the quays were as desolate as the city. Empty, too, were the long
stables where the horses and mules had used to be kept for conveying
the royal plate from ocean to ocean. Two or three poor beasts lay in
their stalls--slaughtered as unfit for service; the rest, no doubt,
were carrying Morgan's loot on the road to Chagres.
Here, beside the stables, Felipe took a sudden turn to the right and
struck down a lane which seemed to wind back towards the city between
long lines of warehouses. I believe that, had we gone forward another
hundred yards, to the quay's edge, we should have seen or heard enough
to send us along that lane at the double. As it was, we heard nothing,
and saw only the blue bay, the islands shining green under the thin
line of smoke blown on the land breeze--no living creature between
us and them but a few sea-birds. After we had struck into the lane I
turned for another look, and am sure that this was all.
Felipe led the way down the lane for a couple of gunshots; the
Carmelite following like a ghost in her white robes, and I close at
her heels. He halted before a low door on the left; a door of the
most ordinary appearance. It opened by a common latch upon a cobbled
passage running between two warehouses, and so narrow that the walls
almost met high over our heads. At the end of this passage--which was
perhaps forty feet long--we came to a second door, with a grille, and,
hanging beside it, an iron bell-handle, at which Felipe tugged.
The sound of the bell gave me a start, for it seemed to come from just
beneath my feet. Felipe grinned.
"Brother Bartolome works like a mole. But good wine needs no bush, my
Juanito, as you shall presently own. He takes his own time, though,"
Felipe grumbled, after a minute. "It cannot be that--"
He was about to tug again when somebody pushed back the little shutter
behind the grille, and a pair of eyes (we could see nothing of the
face) gazed out upon us.
"There is no longer need for caution, reverend father," said Felipe,
addressing the grille. "The Lutheran dogs have left the city, and we
have come to taste your cordial and consult with you on a matter of
We heard a bolt slid, and the door opened upon a pale emaciated face
and two eyes which clearly found the very moderate daylight too much
for them. Brother Bartolome blinked without ceasing, while he shielded
with one hand the thin flame of an earthenware lamp.
"Are you come all on one business?" he asked, his gaze passing from
one to another, and resting at length on the Carmelite.
"When the forest takes fire, all beasts are cousins," said Felipe
sententiously. Without another question the friar turned and led the
way, down a flight of stairs which plunged (for all I could tell) into
the bowels of earth. His lamp flickered on bare walls upon which the
spiders scurried. I counted twenty steps, and still all below us was
dark as a pit; ten more, and I was pulled up with that peculiar and
highly disagreeable jar which everyone remembers who has put forward
a foot expecting a step, and found himself suddenly on the level. The
passage ran straight ahead into darkness: but the friar pushed open a
low door in the left-hand wall, and, stepping aside, ushered us into a
room, or paved cell, lit by a small lamp depending by a chain from the
Shelves lined the cell from floor to roof; chests, benches, and
work-tables occupied two-thirds of the floor-space: and all were
crowded with books, bottles, retorts, phials, and the apparatus of
a laboratory. "Crowded," however, is not the word; for at a second
glance I recognised the beautiful order that reigned. The deal
work-benches had been scoured white as paper; every glass, every metal
pan and basin sparkled and shone in the double light of the lamp and
of a faint beam of day conducted down from the upper world by a kind
of funnel and through a grated window facing the door.
In this queer double light Brother Bartolome faced us, after
extinguishing the small lamp in his hand.
"You say the pirates have left?"
Felipe nodded. "At daybreak. We in this room are all who remain in
"The citizens will be returning, doubtless, in a day or two. I have
no food for you, if that is what you seek. I finished my last crust
"That is a pity. But we must forage. Meanwhile, reverend father, a
touch of your cordial--"
Brother Bartolome reached down a bottle from a shelf. It was heavily
sealed and decorated with a large green label bearing a scarlet cross.
Bottles similarly sealed and labelled lined this shelf and a dozen
others. He broke the seal, drew the cork, and fetched three glasses,
each of which he held carefully up to the lamplight. Satisfied of
their cleanliness, he held the first out to the Carmelite. She shook
"It is against the vow."
He grunted and poured out a glassful apiece for Felipe and me. The
first sip brought tears into my eyes: and then suddenly I was filled
with sunshine--golden sunshine--and could feel it running from limb to
limb through every vein in my small body.
Felipe chuckled. "See the lad looking down at his stomach! Button your
jacket, Juanito; the noonday's shining through! Another sip, to the
reverend father's health! His brothers run away--the Abbot himself
runs: but Brother Bartolome stays. For he labours for the good of man,
and that gives a clear conscience. Behold how just, after all, are
the dispositions of Heaven: how blind are the wicked! For three weeks
those bloody-minded dogs have been grinning and running about the
city: and here under their feet, as in a mine, have lain the two most
precious jewels of all--a clear conscience and a liquor which, upon my
faith, holy father, cannot be believed in under a second glass."
Brother Bartolome was refilling the glass, when the Carmelite touched
"You have been here--all the while?"
"Has it been so long? I have been at work, you see."
"For the good of man," interrupted Felipe. "Time slips away when one
works for the good of man."
"And all the while you were distilling this?"
"This--and other things."
"Other things to drink?"
"My daughter, had they caught me, they might have tortured me. I might
have held my tongue: but, again, I might not. Under torture one never
knows what will happen. But the secret of the liquor had to die with
me--that is in the vow. So to be on the safe side I made--other
"Father, give me to drink of those other things."
She spoke scarcely above her breath: but her fingers were gripping his
arm. He looked straight into her eyes.
"My poor child!" was all he said, very low and slow.
"I can touch no other sacrament," she pleaded. "Father, have mercy and
give me that one!" She watched his eyes eagerly as they flinched
from hers in pity and dwelt for a moment on a tall chest behind her
shoulder, against the wall to the right of the door. She glanced
round, stepped to the chest, and laid a hand on the lid. "Is it here?"
But he was beside her on the instant; and stooping, locked down the
lid, and drew out the key abruptly.
"Is it here?" she repeated.
"My child, that is an ice-chest. In the liquor, for perfection, the
water used has first to be frozen. That chest contains ice, and
"Nothing else?" she persisted.
But here Felipe broke in. "The Senorita is off her hinges, father.
Much fasting has made her light-headed. And that brings me to my
business. You know my head, too, is not strong: good enough for a
furlong or two, but not for the mile course. Now if you will shelter
these two innocents whilst I forage we shall make a famous household.
You have rooms here in plenty; the best-hidden in Panama. But none
of us can live without food, and with these two to look after I am
hampered. There are the dogs, too. But Felipe knows a trick or two
more than the dogs, and if he do not fill your larder by sunset, may
his left leg be withered like his right!"
Brother Bartolome considered. "Here are the keys," said he. "Choose
your lodgings and take the boy along with you, for I think the sister
here wishes to talk with me alone."
Felipe took the keys and handed me the small lamp, which I held aloft
as he limped after me along the dark corridor, tapping its flagged
pavement with the nail of his crutch. We passed an iron-studded door
which led, he told me, to the crypt of the chapel; and soon after
mounted a flight of steps and found ourselves before the great folding
doors of the ante-chapel itself, and looked in. Here was daylight
again: actual sunlight, falling through six windows high up in the
southern wall and resting in bright patches on the stall canopies
within. We looked on these bright patches through the interspaces of a
great carved screen: but when I would have pressed into the chapel for
a better view, Felipe took me by the collar.
"Business first," said he, and pointed up the staircase, which mounted
steeply again after its break by the chapel doors. Up we went, and
were saluted again by the smell of burnt cedar-wood wafted through
lancet windows, barred but unglazed, in the outer wall. The inner wall
was blank, of course, being the northern side-wall of the chapel:
but we passed one doorway in it with which I was to make better
acquaintance. And, about twenty steps higher, we reached a long level
corridor and the cells where the brothers slept.
Felipe opened them one by one and asked me to take my choice. All were
empty and bare, and seemed to me pretty much alike.
"We have slept in worse, but that is not the point. Be pleased to
remember, Juanito, that we are kings now: and as kings we are bound to
find the reverend fathers' notions of bedding inadequate. Suppose you
collect us half-a-dozen of these mattresses apiece, while I go on and
I chose three cells for Sister Marta, Felipe, and myself, and set
about dragging beds and furniture from the others to make us really
comfortable. I dare say I spent twenty minutes over this, and, when
all was done, perched myself on a stool before the little window of my
own bed-room, for a look across the city. It was a very little window
indeed, and all I saw was a green patch beyond the northern suburbs,
where the rich merchants' gardens lay spread like offerings before a
broken-down shrine. Those trees no doubt hid trampled lawns and ruined
verandahs: but at such a distance no scar could be seen. The suburbs
looked just as they had always looked in early spring.
I was staring out of window, so, and just beginning to wonder why
Felipe did not return as he had promised, when there came ringing
up the staircase two sharp cries, followed by a long, shrill,
My first thought (I cannot tell you why) was that Felipe must have
tumbled downstairs: and without any second thought I had jumped off my
chair and was flying down to his help, three stairs at a bound, when
another scream and a roar of laughter fetched me up short. The laugh
was not Felipe's; nor could I believe it Brother Bartolome's. In fact
it was the laugh of no one man, but of several. The truth leapt on me
with a knife, as you might say. The buccaneers had returned.
I told you, a while back, of a small doorway in the inner wall of
the staircase. It was just opposite this door that I found myself
cowering, trying to close my ears against the abhorrent screams which
filled the stairway and the empty corridor above with their echoes. To
crawl out of sight--had you lived through those three weeks in Panama
you would understand why this was the only thought in my head, and why
my knees shook so that I actually crawled on them to the little door,
and finding that it opened easily, crept inside and shut it before
looking about me.
But even in the act of shutting it I grew aware that the screams and
laughter were louder than ever. And a glance around told me that I
was not in a room at all, but in the chapel, or rather in a gallery
overlooking it, and faced with an open balustrade.
As I crouched there on my knees, they could not see me, nor could I
see them; but their laughter and their infernal jabber--for these
buccaneers were the sweepings of half-a-dozen nations--came to my ears
as distinct as though I stood among them. And under the grip of terror
I crawled to the front of the gallery and peered down between its
I told you, to start with, that Felipe was a crazy old fool: and I
dare say you have gathered by this time what shape his craziness took.
He had a mania for imagining himself a great man. For days together he
might be as sane as you or I; and then, all of a sudden--a chance word
would set him off--he had mounted his horse and put on all the airs of
the King of Spain, or his Holiness the Pope, or any grandissimo
you pleased, from the Governor of Panama upwards. I had known that
morning, when he began to prate about our being kings, that the crust
of his common-sense was wearing thin. I suppose that after leaving me
he must have come across the coffers in which the Abbot kept his robes
of state, and that the sight of them started his folly with a twist;
for he lay below me on the marble floor of the chapel, arrayed like
a prince of the Church. The mitre had rolled from his head; but the
folds of a magnificent purple cope, embroidered with golden lilies
and lined with white silk, flowed from his twisted shoulders over the
black and white chequers of the pavement. And he must have dressed
himself with care, too: for beneath the torn hem of the alb his feet
and ankles stirred feebly, and caught my eye: and they were clad in
silken stockings. He was screaming no longer. Only a moan came at
intervals as he lay there, with closed eyes, in the centre of that
ring of devils: and on the outer edge of the ring, guarded, stood
Brother Bartolome and the Carmelite. Had we forgotten or been too
careless to close the door after us when Brother Bartolome let us in?
I tried to remember, but could not be sure.
The most of the buccaneers--there were eight of them--spoke no
Spanish: but there was one, a cross-eyed fellow, who acted as
interpreter. And he knelt and held up a bundle of keys which Felipe
wore slung from a girdle round his waist.
"Once more, Master Abbot--will you show us your treasures, or will you
"I tell you," Brother Bartolome spoke up, very short and distinct,
"there are no treasures. And if there were, that poor wretch could not
show them. He is no Abbot, but a beggar who has lived on charity these
twenty years to my knowledge."
"That tongue of yours, friar, needs looking to. I promise you to cut
it out and examine it when I have done with your reverend father here.
As for the wench at your side--"
"You may do as your cruelty prompts you, Brother Bartolome
interrupted. But that man is no Abbot."
"He may be Saint Peter himself, and these the keys of Heaven and Hell.
But I and my camarados are going to find out what they open, as sure
as my name is Evan Evans." And he knotted a cord round Felipe's
forehead and began to twist. The Carmelite put her hands over her
eyes and would have fallen: but one of her guards held her up, while
another slipped both arms round her neck from behind and held her
eyelids wide open with finger and thumb. I believe--I hope--that
Felipe was past feeling by this time, as he certainly was past speech.
He did not scream again, and it was only for a little while that he
moaned. But even when the poor fool's head dropped on his shoulder,
and the life went out of him, they did not finish with the corpse
until, in their blasphemous sport, they had hoisted it over the altar
and strapped it there with its arms outstretched and legs dangling.
"Now I think it is your turn," said the scoundrel Evans, turning to
Brother Bartolome with a grin.
"I regret that we cannot give you long, for we returned from Tavoga
this morning to find Captain Morgan already on the road. It will save
time if you tell us at once what these keys open."
"Certainly I will tell you," said the friar, and stretched out a hand
for the bunch. "This key for instance, is useless: it opens the door
of the wicket by which you entered. This opens the chest which, as a
rule, contains the holy vessels; but it too, is useless, since the
chest is empty of all but the silver chalices and a couple of patens.
Will you send one of your men to prove that I speak truth? This,
again, is the key of my own cell--"
"Where your reverence entertains the pretty nuns who come for
"After that," said Brother Bartolome, pointing a finger towards
the altar and the poor shape dangling, "you might disdain small
The scoundrel leaned his back against a carved bench-end and nodded
his head slowly. "Master friar, you shall have a hard death."
"Possibly. This, as I was saying, is the key of my cell, where I
decoct the liquor for which this house is famous. Of our present stock
the bulk lies in the cellars, to which this"--and he held up yet
another key--"will admit you. Yes, that is it," as one of the pirates
produced a bottle and held it under his nose.
"Eh? Let me see it." The brute Evans snatched the bottle. "Is this the
stuff?" he demanded, holding it up to the sunlight which streamed
down red on his hand from the robe of a martyr in one of the painted
windows above. He pulled out his heavy knife, and with the back of it
knocked off the bottle-neck.
"I will trouble you to swear to the taste," said he.
"I taste it only when our customers complain. They have not complained
now for two-and-twenty years."
"Nevertheless you will taste it."
"You compel me?"
"Certainly I compel you. I am not going to be poisoned if I can help
it. Drink, I tell you!"
Brother Bartolome shrugged his shoulders. "It is against the vow ...
but, under compulsion ... and truly I make it even better than I
used," he wound up, smacking his thin lips as he handed back the
The buccaneer took it, watching his face closely. "Here's death to the
Pope!" said he, and tasted it, then took a gulp. "The devil, but it is
hot!" he exclaimed, the tears springing into his eyes.
"Certainly, if you drink it in that fashion. But why not try it with
"You will find a chestful in my cell. Here is the key; which, by the
way, has no business with this bunch. Felipe, yonder, who was always
light-fingered, must have stolen it from my work-bench."
"Hand it over. One must go to the priests to learn good living. Here,
Jacques le Bec!" He rattled off an order to a long-nosed fellow at his
elbow, who saluted and left the chapel, taking the key.
"We shall need a cup to mix it in," said Brother Bartolome quietly.
One of the pirates thrust the silver chalices into his hands: for the
bottle had been passed from one man to another, and they were thirsty
for more. Brother Bartolome took it, and looked at the Carmelite.
For the moment nobody spoke: and a queer feeling came over me in my
hiding. This quiet group of persons in the quiet chapel--it seemed to
me impossible they could mean harm to one another, that in a minute or
two the devil would be loose among them. There was no menace in the
posture of any one of them, and in Brother Bartolome's there was
certainly no hint of fear. His back was towards me, but the Carmelite
stood facing my gallery, and I looked straight into her eyes as they
rested on the cups, and in them I read anxiety indeed, but not fear.
It was something quite different from fear.
The noise of Jacques le Bec's footstep in the ante-chapel broke this
odd spell of silence. The man Evans uncrossed his legs and took a pace
to meet him. "Here, hand me a couple of bottles. How much will the
"A bottle and a half, or thereabouts: that is, if you allow for the
Jacques carried the bottles in a satchel, and a block of ice in a
wrapper under his left arm. He handed over the satchel, set down the
ice on the pavement and began to unwrap it. At a word from Evans he
fell to breaking it up with the pommel of his sword.
"We must give it a minute or two to melt," Evans added. And again a
silence fell, in which I could hear the lumps of ice tinkling as they
knocked against the silver rims of the chalices.
"The ice is melted. Is it your pleasure that I first taste this also?"
Brother Bartolome spoke very gravely and deliberately.
"I believe," sneered Evans, "that on these occasions the religious are
the first to partake."
The friar lifted one of the chalices and drank. He held it to his lips
with a hand that did not shake at all; and, having tasted, passed
it on to Evans without a word or a glance. His eyes were on the
Carmelite, who had taken half a step forward with palms held sidewise
to receive the chalice he still held in his right hand. He guided it
to her lips, and his left hand blessed her while she drank. Almost
before she had done, the Frenchman, Jacques le Bec, snatched it.
The Carmelite stood, swaying. Brother Bartolome watched the cups as
they went full circle.
Jacques le Bec, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, spoke a
word or two rapidly in French.
Brother Bartolome turned to Evans. "Yes, I go with you. For you, my
child!"--He felt for his crucifix and held it over the Carmelite, who
had dropped on her knees before him. At the same time, with his left
hand, he pointed towards the altar. "For these, the mockery of the
Crucified One which themselves have prepared!"
I saw Evans pull out his knife and leap. I saw him like a man shot,
drop his arm and spin right-about as two screams rang out from the
gallery over his head. It must have been I who screamed: and to me,
now, that is the inexplicable part of it. I cannot remember uttering
the screams: yet I can see Evans as he turned at the sound of them.
Yet it was I who screamed, and who ran for the door and, still
screaming, dashed out upon the staircase. Up the stairs I ran: along
the corridor: and up a second staircase.
The sunshine broke around me. I was on the leads of the roof, and
Panama lay spread at my feet like a trodden garden. I listened: no
footsteps were following. Far away from the westward came the notes
of a bugle--faint, yet clear. In the northern suburbs the dogs were
baying. I listened again. I crept to the parapet of the roof and saw
the stained eastern window of the chapel a few yards below me, saw its
painted saints and martyrs, outlined in lead, dull against the noonday
glow. And from within came no sound at all.
_The Story is Told by Dom Bartholomew Perestrello, Governor of the
Island of Porto Santo_.
It was on the fifteenth day of August, 1428, and about six o'clock in
the morning, that while taking the air on the seaward side of my house
at Porto Santo, as my custom was after breaking fast, I caught sight
of a pinnace about two leagues distant, and making for the island.
I dare say it is commonly known how I came to the governance of Porto
Santo, to hold it and pass it on to my son Bartholomew; how I sailed
to it in the year 1420 in company with the two honourable captains
John Gonsalvez Zarco and Tristram Vaz; and what the compact was which
we made between us, whereby on reaching Porto Santo these two left me
behind and passed on to discover the greater island of Madeira. And
many can tell with greater or less certainty of our old pilot,
the Spaniard Morales, and how he learned of such an island in his
captivity on the Barbary coast. Of all this you shall hear, and
perhaps more accurately, when I come to my meeting with the
Englishman. But I shall tell first of the island itself, and what were
my hopes of it on the morning when I sighted his pinnace.
In the first warmth of discovering them we never doubted that
these were the Purple Islands of King Juba, the very Garden of the
Hesperides, found anew by us after so many hundreds of years; or that
we had aught to do but sit still in our governments and grow rich
while we feasted. But that was in the year 1420, and the eight years
between had made us more than eight years sadder. In the other island
the great yield of timber had quickly come to an end: for Count Zarco,
returning thither with wife and children in the month of May, 1421,
and purposing to build a city, had set fire to the woods behind the
fennel-fields on the south coast, with intent to clear a way up to the
hills in the centre: and this fire quickly took such hold on the mass
of forest that not ten times the inhabitants could have mastered it.
And so the whole island burned for seven years, at times with a heat
which drove the settlers to their boats. For seven years as surely as
night fell could we in Porto Santo count on the glare of it across the
sea to the south-west, and for seven years the caravels of our prince
and master, Dom Henry, sighted the flame of it on their way southward
to Cape Bojador.
In all this while Count Zarco never lost heart; but, when the timber
began to fail, planted his sugar-canes on the scarcely cooled ashes,
and his young plants of the Malmsey vine--the one sent from Sicily,
the other from Candia, and both by the care of Dom Henry. While he
lives it will never be possible to defeat my friend and old comrade:
and he and I have both lived to see his island made threefold richer
by that visitation which in all men's belief had clean destroyed it.
This planting of vines and sugar-canes began in 1425, the same year
in which the Infante gave me colonists for Porto Santo. But if I had
little of Count Zarco's merit, it is certain I had none of his luck:
for on my small island nothing would thrive but dragon-trees; and we
had cut these in our haste before learning how to propagate them, so
that we had at the same moment overfilled the market with their gum,
or "dragon's blood," and left but a few for a time of better prices.
And, what was far worse, at the suggestion surely of Satan I had
turned three tame rabbits loose upon the island; and from the one doe
were bred in two or three years so many thousands of these pestilent
creatures that when in 1425 we came to plant the vines and canes, not
one green shoot in a million escaped. Thus it happened that by 1428 my
kingdom had become but a barren rock, dependent for its revenues upon
the moss called the orchilla weed of which the darker and better kind
could be gathered only by painful journeys inland.
You may see, therefore, that I had little to comfort me as I paced
before my house that morning. I was Governor of an impoverished rock
on which I had wasted the toil and thought of eight good years of my
prime: my title was hereditary, but I had in those days no son to
inherit it. And when I considered the fortune I had exchanged for
this, and my pleasant days in Dom Henry's service at Sagres, I accused
myself for the most miserable among men.
Now, at the north-western angle of my house, and a little below the
terrace where I walked, there grew a plantation of dragon-trees, one
of the few left upon the island. Each time this sentry-walk of mine
brought me back to the angle I would halt before turning and eye the
trees, sourly pondering on our incredible folly. For, on my first
coming they had grown everywhere, and some with trunks great enough
to make a boat for half a dozen men: but we had cut them down for all
kinds of uses, whenever a man had wanted wood for a shield or a bushel
for his corn, and now they scarce grew fruit enough to fatten the
hogs. It was standing there and eyeing my dragon-trees that over the
tops of them I caught sight of the pinnace plying towards the island.
I remember clearly what manner of day it was; clear and fresh, the
sea scarce heaving, but ruffled under a southerly breeze. The small
vessel, though well enough handled, made a sorry leeway by reason of
her over-tall sides, and lost so much time at every board through the
labour of lowering and rehoisting her great lateen yard that I judged
it would take her three good hours before she came to anchor in the
I could not find that she had any hostile appearance, yet--as my duty
was--sent down word to the guard to challenge her business before
admitting her; and a little before nine o'clock I put on my coat
and walked down to the haven to look after this with my own eyes. I
arrived almost at the moment when she entered and her crew, with sail
partly lowered, rounded her very cleverly up in the wind.
The guard-boat put off at once and boarded her; and by-and-by came
back with word that the pinnace was English (which by this time I had
guessed), by name the _George of Bristol_, and owned by an Englishman
of quality, who, by reason of his extreme age, desired of my courtesy
that I would come on board and confer with him. This at first I was
unwilling to risk: but seeing her moored well under the five guns of
our fort, and her men so far advanced with the furling of her big sail
that no sudden stroke of treachery could be attempted except to her
destruction, I sent word to the gunners to keep a brisk look-out, and
stepping into the boat was pulled alongside.
At the head of the ladder there met me an aged gentleman, lean and
bald and wrinkled, with narrow eyes and a skin like clear vellum. For
all the heat of the day he wore a furred cloak which reached to his
knees; also a thin gold chain around his neck: and this scrag neck and
the bald head above it stood out from his fur collar as if they had
been a vulture's. By his dress and the embroidered bag at his girdle,
and the clasps of his furred shoes, I made no doubt he was a rich man;
and he leaned on an ebony staff or wand capped with a pretty device of
ivory and gold.
He stood thus, greeting me with as many bobs of the head as a bird
makes when pecking an apple; and at first he poured out a string of
salutations (I suppose) in English, a language with which I have no
familiarity. This he perceived after a moment, and seemed not a little
vexed; but covering himself and turning his back shuffled off to a
door under the poop.
"Martin!" he called in a high broken voice. "Martin!"
A little man of my own country, very yellow and foxy, came running
out, and the pair talked together for a moment before advancing
"Your Excellency," the interpreter began, "this is a gentleman of
England who desires that you will dine with him to-day. His name is
Master Thomas d'Arfet, and he has some questions to put to you, of
your country, in private."
"D'Arfet?" I mused: and as my brows went up at the name I caught the
old gentleman watching me with an eye which was sharp enough within
its dulled rim. "Will you answer that I am at his service, but on the
one condition that he comes ashore and dines with _me_."
When this was reported at first Master d'Arfet would have none of it,
but rapped his staff on the desk and raised a score of objections in
his scolding voice. Since I could understand none of them, I added
very firmly that it was my rule; that he could be carried up to my
house on a litter without an ache of his bones; and, in short, that I
must either have his promise or leave the ship.
He would have persisted, I doubt not; but it is ill disputing through
an interpreter, and he ended by giving way with a very poor grace. So
ashore we rowed him with the man Martin, and two of my guard conveyed
him up the hill in a litter, on which he sat for all the world like a
peevish cross'd child. In my great airy dining-room he seemed to cool
down and pick up his better humour by degrees. He spoke but little
during the meal, and that little was mainly addressed to Martin, who
stood behind his chair: but I saw his eyes travelling around the
panelled walls and studying the portraits, the furniture, the neat
table, the many comforts which it clearly astonished him to find on
this forsaken island. Also he as clearly approved of the food and of
my wine of Malmsey. Now and then he would steal a look at my wife
Beatrix, or at one or the other of my three daughters, and again gaze
out at the sea beyond the open window, as though trying to piece it
all together into one picture.
But it was not until the womenfolk had risen and retired that he
unlocked his thoughts to me. And I hold even now that his first
question was a curious one.
"Dom Bartholomew Perestrello, are you a happy man?"
Had it come from his own lips it might have found me better prepared:
but popped at me through the mouth of an interpreter, a servant who
(for all his face told) might have been handing it on a dish, his
question threw me out of my bearings.
"Well, Sir," I found myself answering, "I hope you see that I have
much to thank God for." And while this was being reported to him I
recalled with a twinge my dejected thoughts of the morning. "I have
made many mistakes," I began again.
But without seeming to hear, Master d'Arfet began to dictate to
Martin, who, after a polite pause to give me time to finish if I cared
to, translated in his turn.
"I have told you my name. It is Thomas d'Arfet, and I come from
Bristol. You have heard my name before?"
I nodded, keeping my eyes on his.
"I also have heard of you, and of the two captains in whose company
you discovered these islands."
I nodded again. "Their names," said I, "are John Gonsalvez Zarco
and Tristram Vaz. You may visit them, if you please, on the greater
island, which they govern between them."
He bent his head. "The fame of your discovery, Sir, reached England
some years ago. I heard at the time, and paid it just so much heed as
one does pay to the like news--just so much and no more. The _manner_
of your discovery of the greater island came to my ears less than a
twelvemonth ago, and then but in rumours and broken hints. Yet here
am I, close on my eightieth year, voyaging more than half across the
world to put those broken hints together and resolve my doubts.
Tell me"--he leaned forward over the table, peering eagerly into my
eyes--"there was a tale concerning the island--concerning a former
"Yes," said I, as he broke off, his eyes still searching mine, "there
was a tale concerning the island."
"Brought to you by a Spanish pilot, who had picked it up on the
"You have heard correctly," said I. "The pilot's name was Morales."
"Well, it is to hear that tale that I have travelled across the world
to visit you."
"Ah, but forgive me, Sir!" I poured out another glassful of wine, drew
up my chair, rested both elbows on the table, and looked at him over
my folded hands. "You must first satisfy me what reason you have for
"My name is Thomas d'Arfet," he said.
"I do not forget it: but maybe I should rather have said--What aim you
have in asking. I ought first to know that, methinks."
In his impatience he would have leapt from his chair had his old limbs
allowed. Pressing the table with white finger-tips, he sputtered some
angry words of English, and then fell back on the interpreter Martin,
who from first to last wore a countenance fixed like a mask.
"Mother of Heaven, Sir! You see me here, a man of eighty, broken of
wind and limb, palsied, with one foot in the grave: you know what it
costs to fit out and victual a ship for a voyage: you know as well as
any man, and far better than I, the perils of these infernal seas. I
brave those perils, undergo those charges, drag my old limbs these
thousands of miles from the vault where they are due to rest--and you
ask me if I have any reason for coming!"
"Not at all," I answered. "I perceive rather that you must have an
extraordinarily strong reason--a reason or a purpose clean beyond my
power of guessing. And that is just why I wish to hear it."
"Men of my age--" he began, but I stopped Martin's translation midway.
"Men of your age, Sir, do not threaten the peace of such islands as
these. Men of your age do not commonly nurse dangerous schemes. All
that I can well believe. Men of your age, as you say, do not chase a
wild goose so far from their chimney-side. But men of your age are
also wise enough to know that governors of colonies--ay," for my words
were being interpreted to him a dozen at a time and I saw the sneer
grow on his face, "even of so poor a colony as this--do not give up
even a small secret to the very first questioner."
"But the secret is one no longer. Even in England I had word of it."
"And your presence here," said I, "is proof enough that you learned
less than you wanted."
He drew his brows together over his narrow eyes. I think what first
set me against the man was the look of those eyes, at once malevolent
and petty. You may see the like in any man completely ungenerous. Also
the bald skin upon his skull was drawn extremely tight, while the
flesh dropped in folds about his neck and under his lean chaps, and
the longer I pondered this the more distasteful I found him.
"You forget, Sir," said he--and while Martin translated he still
seemed to chew the words--"the story is not known to you only. I can
yet seek out the pilot himself."
"Morales? He is dead these three years."
"Your friends, then, upon the greater island. Failing them, I can yet
put back to Lagos and appeal to the Infante himself--for doubtless he
knows. Time is nothing to me now." He sat his chin obstinately, and
then, not without nobility, pushed his glass from him and stood up.
"Sir," said he, "I began by asking if you were a happy man. I am a
most unhappy one, and (I will confess) the unhappier since you have
made it clear that you cannot or will not understand me. In my youth
a great wrong was done me. You know my name, and you guess what
that wrong was: but you ask yourself, 'Is it possible this old man
remembers, after sixty years?' Sir, it is possible, nay, certain;
because I have never for an hour forgotten. You tell yourself, 'It
cannot be this only: there must be something behind.' There is nothing
behind; nothing. I am the Thomas d'Arfet whose wife betrayed him just
sixty years ago; that, and no more. I come on no State errand, I!
I have no son, no daughter; I never, to my knowledge, possessed a
friend. I trusted a woman, and she poisoned the world for me. I
acknowledge in return a duty to no man but myself; I have voyaged thus
far out of that duty. You, Sir, have thought it fitter to baffle than
to aid me--well and good. But by the Christ above us I will follow
that duty out; and, at the worst, death, when it comes, shall find me
He spoke this with a passion of voice which I admired before his
man began to interpret: and even when I heard it repeated in level
Portuguese, and had time to digest it and extract its monstrous
selfishness, I could look at him with compassion, almost with respect.
His cheeks had lost their flush almost as rapidly as they had taken it
on, and he stood awkwardly pulling at his long bony fingers until the
"Be seated, Sir," said I. "It is clear to me that I must be a far
happier man than I considered myself only this morning, since I find
nothing in myself which, under any usage of God, could drive me on
such a pursuit as yours would seem to be. I may perhaps, without
hypocrisy, thank God that I cannot understand you. But this, at
any rate, is clear--that you seek only a private satisfaction: and
although I cannot tell you the story here and now, something I will
promise. As soon as you please I will sail with you to the greater
island, and we will call together on Count Zarco. In his keeping lies
one of the two copies of Morales' story as we took it down from his
lips at Sagres, or, rather, compiled it after much questioning. It
shall be for the Count to produce or withhold it, as he may decide.
He is a just man, and neither one way nor the other will I attempt to
Master d'Arfet considered for a while. Then said he, "I thank you: but
will you sail with me in my pinnace or in your own?"
"In my own," said I, "as I suspect you will choose to go in yours.
I promise we shall outsail you; but I promise also to await your
arriving, and give the Count his free choice. If you knew him," I
added, "you would know such a promise to be superfluous."
My own pinnace arrived in sight of Funchal two mornings later, and a
little after sunrise. We had outsailed the Englishman, as I promised,
and lay off-and-on for more than two hours before he came up with us.
I knew that Count Zarco would be sitting at this time in the sunshine
before his house and above the fennel plain, hearing complaints and
administering justice: I knew, moreover, that he would recognise my
pinnace at once: and from time to time I laughed to myself to think
how this behaviour of ours must be puzzling my old friend.
Therefore I was not surprised to find him already arrived at the
quay when we landed; with a groom at a little distance holding his
magnificent black stallion. For I must tell you that my friend was
ever, and is to this day, a big man in all his ways--big of stature,
big of voice, big of heart, and big to lordliness in his notions of
becoming display. None but Zarco would have chosen for his title,
"Count of the Chamber of the Wolves," deriving it from a cave where
his men had started a herd of sea-calves on his first landing and
taking seizin of the island. And the black stallion he rode when
another would have been content with a mule; and the spray of fennel
in his hat; and the ribbon, without which he never appeared among his
dependents; were all a part of his large nature, which was guileless
and simple withal as any child's.
Now, for all my dislike, I had found the old Englishman a person
of some dignity and command: but it was wonderful how, in Zarco's
presence, he shrank to a withered creature, a mere applejack without
juice or savour. The man (I could see) was eager to get to business
at once, and could well have done without the ceremony of which Zarco
would not omit the smallest trifle. After the first salutations came
the formal escort to the Governor's house; and after that a meal which
lasted us two hours; and then the Count must have us visit his new
sugar-mills and inspect the Candia vines freshly pegged out, and
discuss them. On all manner of trifles he would invite Master
d'Arfet's opinion: but to show any curiosity or to allow his guests to
satisfy any, did not belong to his part of host--a part he played
with a thoroughness which diverted me while it drove the Englishman
But late in the afternoon, and after we had worked our way through a
second prodigious meal, I had compassion on the poor man, and taking
(as we say) the bull by both horns, announced the business which had
brought us. At once Zarco became grave.
"My dear Bartholomew," said he, "you did right, of course, to bring
Master d'Arfet to me. But why did you show any hesitation?" Before I
could answer he went on: "Clearly, as the lady's husband, he has a
right to know what he seeks. She left him: but her act cannot annul
any rights of his which the Holy Church gave him, and of which, until
he dies, only the Holy Church can deprive him. He shall see Morales'
statement as we took it down in writing: but he should have the story
from the beginning: and since it is a long one, will you begin and
tell so much as you know?"
"If it please you," said I, and this being conveyed to Master d'Arfet,
while Zarco sent a servant with his keys for the roll of parchment, we
drew up our chairs to the table, and I began.
"It was in September, 1419," said I, "when the two captains, John
Gonsalvez Zarco and Tristram Vaz, returned to Lagos from their first
adventure in these seas. I was an equerry of our master, the Infante
Henry, at that time, and busy with him in rebuilding and enlarging the
old arsenal on the neck of Cape Sagres; whence, by his wisdom, so many
expeditions have been sent forth since to magnify God and increase the
knowledge of mankind.
"We had built already the chapel and the library, with its map-room,
and the Prince and I were busy there together on the plans for his
observatory in the late afternoon when the caravels were sighted: and
the news being brought, his Highness left me at work while he rode
down to the port to receive his captains. I was still working by
lamplight in the map-room when he returned, bringing them and a third
man, the old Spaniard Morales.
"Seating himself at the table, he bade me leave my plans, draw my
chair over, and take notes in writing of the captains' report. Zarco
told the story--he being first in command, and Tristram Vaz a silent
man, then and always: and save for a question here and there, the
Prince listened without comment, deferring to examine it until the
whole had been related.
"Now, in one way, the expedition had failed, for the caravels had been
sent to explore the African coast beyond Cape Bojador, and as far
south as might be; whereas they had scarcely put to sea before a
tempest drove them to the westward, and far from any coast at all.
Indeed, they had no hope left, nor any expectation but to founder,
when they sighted the island; and so came by God's blessing to the
harbour which, in their joy, they named Porto Santo. There, finding
their caravels strained beyond their means to repair for a long
voyage, and deeming that this discovery well outweighed their first
purpose, they stayed but a sufficient time to explore the island, and
so put back for Lagos. But their good fortune was not yet at an end:
for off the Barbary coasts they fell in with and captured a Spaniard
containing much merchandise and two score of poor souls ransomed out
of captivity with the Barbary corsairs. 'And among them,' said my
friend Gonsalvez, 'your Highness will find this one old man, if I
mistake not, to be worth the charges of two such expeditions as ours.'
"Upon this we all turned our eyes upon the Spaniard, who had been
shrinking back as if to avoid the lamplight. He must have been a
tall, up-standing man in his prime; but now, as Tristram Vaz drew him
forward, his knees bowed as if he cringed for some punishment. 'Twas
a shock, this fawning carriage of a figure so venerable: but when
Tristram Vaz drew off the decent doublet he wore and displayed his
back, we wondered no longer. Zarco pushed him into a chair and held
a lamp while the Prince examined the man's right foot, where an
ankle-ring had bitten it so that to his death (although it scarcely
hindered his walking) the very bone showed itself naked between the
healed edges of the wound.
"Moreover, when Zarco persuaded him to talk in Spanish it was some
while before we could understand more than a word or two here and
there. The man had spent close upon thirty years in captivity, and his
native speech had all but dried up within him. Also he had no longer
any thought of difference between his own country and another: it was
enough to be among Christians again: nor could we for awhile disengage
that which was of moment from the rambling nonsense with which he
wrapped it about. He, poor man! was concerned chiefly with his
own sufferings, while we were listening for our advantage: yet as
Christians we forbore while he muttered on, and when a word or two
fell from him which might be of service, we recalled him to them (I
believe) as gently as we could.
"Well, the chaff being sifted away, the grain came to this: His name
was Morales, his birthplace Cadiz, his calling that of pilot: he had
fallen (as I have said) into the hands of the Moors about thirty years
before: and at Azamor, or a little inland, he had made acquaintance
with a fellow-prisoner, an Englishman, by name Roger Prince, or
Prance. This man had spent the best part of his life in captivity, and
at one time had changed his faith to get better usage: but his first
master dying at a great age, he passed to another, who cruelly
ill-treated him, and under whose abominable punishments he quickly
sank. He lay, indeed, at the point of death when Morales happened upon
him. Upon some small act of kindness such as one slave may do for
another, the two had made friends: and thus Morales came to hear the
poor Englishman's story."
Here I broke off and nodded to the Count, who called for a lamp. And
so for a few minutes we all sat without speech in the twilight, the
room silent save for the cracking of Master d'Arfet's knuckles. When
at length the lamp arrived, Zarco trimmed it carefully, unfolded his
parchment, spread it on the table, and began to read very deliberately
in his rolling voice, pausing and looking up between the sentences
while the man Martin translated--
"_This is the statement made to me by Roger Prance, the Englishman,
Anno MCCCCIX., at various times in the month before he died_.
"He said: My name is Roger Prance. I come from St. Lawrence on the
River Jo,[A] in England. From a boy I followed the sea in the ships
of Master Canynge,[B] of Bristol, sailing always from that port with
cargoes of wool, and mostly to the Baltic, where we filled with
stock-fish: but once we went south to your own city of Cadiz, and
returned with wines and a little spice purchased of a Levantine
merchant in the port. My last three voyages were taken in the _Mary
Radclyf_ or _Redcliffe_. One afternoon" [the year he could not
remember, but it may have been 1373 or 1374] "I was idle on the Quay
near Vyell's tower, when there comes to me Gervase Hankock, master,
and draws me aside, and says he: 'The vessel will be ready sooner than
you think,' and named the time--to wit, by the night next following.
Now I, knowing that she had yet not any cargo on board, thought him
out of his mind: but said he, 'It is a secret business, and double pay
for you if you are ready and hold your tongue between this and then.'
[Footnote A: Wick St. Lawrence on the Yeo, in Somerset.]
[Footnote B: Grandfather of the famous merchant, William Canynge.]
"So at the time he named I was ready with the most of our old crew,
and all wondering; with the ship but half ballasted as she came from
the Baltic and her rigging not seen to, but moored down between the
marshes at the opening of the River Avon.
"At ten o'clock then comes a whistle from the shore, and anon in a
shore-boat our master with a young man and woman well wrapped, and
presently cuts the light hawser we rode by; and so we dropped down
upon the tide and were out to sea by morning.
"All this time we knew nothing of our two passengers; nor until we
were past the Land's End did they come on deck. But when they did, it
was hand in hand and as lovers; the man a mere youngster, straight,
and gentle in feature and dress, but she the loveliest lady your
eyes ever looked upon. One of our company, Will Tamblyn, knew her at
once--as who would not that had once seen her?--and he cried out with
an oath that she was Mistress d'Arfet, but newly married to a rich
man a little to the north of Bristol. Afterwards, when Master Gervase
found that we knew so much, he made no difficulty to tell us more; as
that the name of her lover was Robert Machin or Macham, a youth of
good family, and that she it was who had hired the ship, being an
heiress in her own right.
"We held southward after clearing the land; with intent, as I suppose,
to make one of the Breton ports. But about six leagues from the French
coast a tempest overtook us from the north-east and drove us beyond
Channel, and lasted with fury for twelve days, all of which time we
ran before it, until on the fourteenth day we sighted land where never
we looked to find any, and came to a large island, thickly wooded,
with high mountains in the midst of it.
"Coasting this island we soon arrived off a pretty deep bay, lined
with cedar-trees: and here Master Machin had the boat lowered and bore
his mistress to land: for the voyage had crazed her, and plainly her
time for this world was not long. Six of us went with them in the
boat, the rest staying by the ship, which was anchored not a mile from
shore. There we made for the poor lady a couch of cedar-boughs with a
spare sail for awning, and her lover sat beside her for two nights and
a day, holding of her hand and talking with her, and wiping her lips
or holding the cup to them when she moaned in her thirst. But at dawn
of the second day she died.
"Then we, who slept on the beach at a little distance, being waked by
his terrible cry, looked up and supposed he had called out for the
loss of the ship. Because the traitors on board of her, considering
how that they had the lady's wealth, had weighed or slipped anchor in
the night (for certainly there was not wind enough to drag by), and
now the ship was nowhere in sight. But when we came to Master Machin
he took no account of our news: only he sat like a statue and stared
at the sea, and then at his dead lady, and 'Well,' he said; 'is she
gone?' We knew not whether he meant the lady or the ship: nor would he
taste any food though we offered it, but turned his face away.
"So that evening we buried the body, and five days later we buried
Master Machin beside her, with a wooden cross at their heads. Then,
not willing to perish on the island, we caught and killed four of the
sheep which ran wild thereon, and having stored the boat with their
flesh (and it was bitter to taste), and launched it, steered, as well
as we could contrive, due east. And so on the eleventh day we were
cast on the coast near to Mogador: but two had died on the way. Here
(for we were starving and could offer no fight) some Moors took us,
and carrying us into the town, sold us into that slavery in which I
have passed all my miserable life since. What became of the _Mary
Radclyf_ I have never heard: nor of the three who came ashore with me
have I had tidings since the day we were sold."
Here Zarco came to the end of his reading: and facing again on Master
d'Arfet (who sat pulling his fingers while his mouth worked as if he
chewed something) I took up the tale.
"All this, Sir, by little and little the pilot Morales told us, there
in the Prince's map-room: and you may be sure we kept it to ourselves.
But the next spring our royal master must fit out two caravels to
colonise Porto Santo; with corn and honey on board, and sugar-canes
and vines and (that ever I should say it!) rabbits. Gonsalvez was
leader, of course, with Tristram Vaz: and to my great joy the Prince
appointed me third in command.
"We sailed from Lagos in June and reached Porto Santo without mishap.
Here Gonsalvez found all well with the colonists he had left behind on
his former visit. But of one thing they were as eager to tell as of
their prosperity: and we had not arrived many hours before they led us
to the top of the island and pointed to a dark line of cloud (as it
seemed) lying low in the south-west. They had kept watch on this (they
said) day by day, until they had made certain it could not be a cloud,
for it never altered its shape. While we gazed at it I heard the
pilot's voice say suddenly at my shoulder, 'That will be the island,
Captain--the Englishman's island!' and I turned and saw that he was
trembling. But Gonsalvez, who had been musing, looked up at him
sharply. 'All my life' said he, 'I have been sailing the seas, yet
never saw landfall like yonder. That which we look upon is cloud and
not land.' 'But who,' I asked, 'ever saw a fixed cloud?' 'Marry, I for
one,' he answered, 'and every seaman who has sailed beside Sicily! But
say nothing to the men; for if they believe a volcano lies yonder we
shall hardly get them to cross.' 'Yet,' said Morales, 'by your leave,
Captain, that is no volcano, but such a cloud as might well rest over
the thick moist woodlands of which the Englishman told me.' 'Well,
that we shall discover by God's grace,' Gonsalvez made answer. 'You
will cross thither?' I asked. 'Why to be sure,' said he cheerfully,
with a look at Tristram Vaz; and Tristram Vaz nodded, saying nothing.
"Yet he had no easy business with his sailors, who had quickly made up
their own minds about this cloud and that it hung over a pit of fire.
One or two had heard tell of Cipango, and allowed this might be that
lost wandering land. 'But how can we tell what perils await us there?'
'Marry, by going and finding out,' growled Tristram Vaz, and this was
all the opinion he uttered. As for Morales, they would have it he was
a Castilian, a foreigner, and only too eager to injure us Portuguese.
"But Gonsalvez had enough courage for all: and on the ninth morning he
and Tristram set sail, with their crews as near mutiny as might be.
Me they left to rule Porto Santo. 'And if we never come back,' said
Gonsalvez, 'you will tell the Prince that _something_ lies yonder
which we would have found, but our men murdered us on the way--'"
"My dear brother Bartholomew," Gonsalvez broke in, "you are wearying
Master d'Arfet, who has no wish to hear about me." And taking up the
tale he went on: "We sailed, Sir, after six hours into as thick a fog
as I have met even on these seas, and anon into a noise of breakers
which seemed to be all about us. So I prayed to the Mother of Heaven
and kept the lead busy, and always found deep water: and more by God's
guidance than our management we missed the Desertas, where a tall bare
rock sprang out of the fog so close on our larboard quarter that the
men cried out it was a giant in black armour rising out of the waves.
So we left it and the noises behind, and by-and-by I shifted the helm
and steered towards the east of the bank, which seemed to me not so
thick thereabouts: and so the fog rolled up and we saw red cliffs and
a low black cape, which I named the Cape of St. Lawrence. And beyond
this, where all appeared to be marshland, we came to a forest shore
with trees growing to the water's edge and filling the chasms between
the cliffs. We were now creeping along the south of the island, and in
clearer weather, but saw no good landing until Morales shouted aft to
me that we were opening the Gulf of Cedars. Now I, perceiving some
recess in the cliffs which seemed likely to give a fair landing, let
him have his way: for albeit we could never win it out of him in
words, I knew that the Englishman must have given him some particular
description of the place, from the confidence he had always used in
speaking of it. So now we had cast anchor, and were well on our way
shoreward in the boat before I could be certain what manner of trees
clothed this Gulf: but Morales never showed doubt or hesitancy; and
being landed, led us straight up the beach and above the tide-mark to
the foot of a low cliff, where was a small pebbled mound and a plain
cross of wood. And kneeling beside them I prayed for the souls' rest
of that lamentable pair, and so took seizin of the island in the names
of our King John, Prince Henry, and the Order of Christ. That, Sir, is
the story, and I will not weary you by telling how we embarked again
and came to this plain which lies at our feet. So much as I believe
will concern you you have heard: and the grave you shall look upon
Master d'Arfet had left off cracking his joints, and for a while after
the end of the story sat drumming with his finger-tips on the table.
At length he looked up, and says he--
"I may suppose, Count Zarco, that as governor of this island you have
power to allot and sell estates upon it on behalf of the King of
"Why, yes," answered Gonsalvez; "any new settler in Funchal must make
his purchase through me: the northern province of Machico I leave to
"I speak of your southern province, and indeed of its foreshore, the
possession of which I suppose to be claimed by the crown of Portugal."
"That is so."
"To be precise I speak of this Gulf of Cedars, as you call it. You
will understand that I have not seen it: I count on your promise to
take me thither to-morrow. But it may save time, and I shall take
it as a favour if--without binding yourself or me to any immediate
bargain--you can give me some notion of the price you would want for
it. But perhaps"--here he lifted his eyes from the table and glanced
at Gonsalvez cunningly--"you have already conveyed that parcel of
land, and I must deal with another."
Now Gonsalvez had opened his mouth to say something, but here
compressed his lips for a moment before answering.
"No: it is still in my power to allot."
"In England just now," went on Master d'Arfet "we should call ten
shillings an acre good rent for unstocked land. We take it at sixpence
per annum rent and twenty years' purchase. I am speaking of reasonably
fertile land, and hardly need to point out that in offering any
such price for mere barren foreshore I invite you to believe me
half-witted. But, as we say at home, he who keeps a fancy must pay a
tax for it: and a man of my age with no heir of his body can afford to
spend as he pleases."
Gonsalvez stared at him, and from him to me, with a puzzled frown.
"Bartholomew," said he, "I cannot understand this gentleman. What can
he want to purchase in the Gulf of Cedars but his wife's grave? And
yet of such a bargain how can he speak as he has spoken?"
I shook my head. "It must be that he is a merchant, and is too old to
speak but as a haggler. Yet I am sure his mind works deeper than this
haggling." I paused, with my eyes upon Master d'Arfet's hands, which
were hooked now like claws over the table which his fingers still
pressed: and this gesture of his put a sudden abominable thought in my
mind. "Yes, he wishes to buy his wife's grave. Ask him--" I cried, and
with that I broke off.
But Gonsalvez nodded. "I know," said he softly, and turned to the
Englishman. "Your desire Sir, is to buy the grave I spoke of?"
Master d'Arfet nodded.
"With what purpose? Come, Sir, your one chance is to be plain with us.
It may be the difference in our race hinders my understanding you: it
may be I am a simple captain and unused to the ways and language of
the market. In any case put aside the question of price, for were
that all between us I would say to you as Ephron the Hittite said
to Abraham. 'Hear me, my lord,' I would say, 'what is four hundred
shekels of silver betwixt me and thee? Bury therefore thy dead.' But
between you and me is more than this: something I cannot fathom. Yet
I must know it before consenting. I demand, therefore, what is your
Master d'Arfet met him straightly enough with those narrow eyes of
his, and said he, "My purpose, Count, is as simple as you describe
your mind to be. Honest seaman, I desire that grave only that I may be
buried in it."
"Then my thought did you wrong, Master d'Arfet, and I crave your
pardon. The grave is yours without price. You shall rest in the end
beside the man and woman who wronged you, and at the Last Day, when
you rise together, may God forgive you as you forgave them!"
The Englishman did not answer for near a minute. His fingers had begun
to drum on the table again and his eyes were bent upon them. At length
he raised his head, and this time to speak slowly and with effort--
"In my country, Count, a bargain is a bargain. When I seek a parcel of
ground, my purpose with it is my affair only: my neighbour fixes his
price, and if it suit me I buy, and there's an end. Now I have passed
my days in buying and selling and you count me a huckster. Yet we
merchants have our rules of honour as well as you nobles: and if in
England I bargain as I have described, it is because between me and
the other man the rules are understood. But I perceive that between
you and me the bargain must be different, since you sell on condition
of knowing my purpose, and would not sell if my purpose offended
you. Therefore to leave you in error concerning my purpose would be
cheating: and, Sir, I have never cheated in my life. At the risk then,
or the certainty, of losing my dearest wish I must tell you this--_I
do not forgive my wife Anne or Robert Machin_: and though I would be
buried in their grave, it shall not be beside them."
"How then?" cried Gonsalvez and I in one voice.
"I would be buried, Sirs, not beside but between them. Ah? Your eyes
were moist, I make no doubt, when you first listened to the pretty
affecting tale of their love and misfortune? Not yet has it struck
either of you to what a hell they left _me_. And I have been living in
it ever since! Think! I loved that woman. She wronged me hatefully,
meanly: yet she and he died together, feeling no remorse. It is I who
keep the knowledge of their vileness which shall push them asunder as
I stretch myself at length in my cool dead ease, content, with my long
purpose achieved, with the vengeance prepared, and nothing to do but
wait securely for the Day of Judgment. Pardon me, Sirs, that I say
'this shall be,' whereas I read in your faces that you refuse me. I
have cheered an unhappy life by this one promise, which at the end I
have thrown away upon a little scruple." He passed a hand over his
eyes and stood up. "It is curious," he said, and stood musing. "It is
curious," he repeated, and turning to Gonsalvez said in a voice empty
of passion, "You refuse me, I understand?"
"Yes," Gonsalvez answered. "I salute you for an honest gentleman; but
I may not grant your wish."
"It is curious," Master d'Arfet repeated once more, and looked at us
queerly, as if seeking to excuse his weakness in our judgment. "So
small a difficulty!"
Gonsalvez bowed. "You have taught us this, Sir, that the world speaks
at random, but in the end a man's honour rests in no hands but his
Master d'Arfet waited while Martin translated; then he put out a hand
for his staff, found it, turned on his heel and tottered from the
room, the interpreter following with a face which had altered nothing
during our whole discourse.
* * * * *
Master d'Arfet sailed at daybreak, having declined Gonsalvez' offer
to show him the grave. My old friend insisted that I must stay a week
with him, and from the terrace before his house we watched the English
pinnace till she rounded the point to eastward and disappeared.
"After all," said I, "we treated him hardly."
But Gonsalvez said: "A husk of a man! All the blood in him sour! And
yet," he mused, "the husk kept him noble after a sort."
And he led me away to the warm slopes to see how his young vines were
MARGERY OF LAWHIBBET
_A Story of 1644_
I pray God to deal gently with my sister Margery Lantine; that the
blood of her twin-brother Mark, though it cry out, may not prevail
against her on the Day of Judgment.
We three were all the children of Ephraim Lantine, a widower, who
owned and farmed (as I do to-day) the little estate of Lawhibbet on
the right shore of the Fowey River, above the ford which crosses to
St. Veep. The whole of our ground slopes towards the river; as also
does the neighbour estate of Lantine, sometime in our family's
possession, but now and for three generations past yielding us only
its name. Three miles below us the river opens into Fowey Harbour,
with Fowey town beside it and facing across upon the village of
Polruan, and a fort on either shore to guard the entrance. Three miles
above us lies Lostwithiel, a neat borough, by the bridge of which the
tidal water ceases. But the traffic between these two towns passes
behind us and out of sight, by the high-road which after climbing out
of Lostwithiel runs along a narrow neck of land dividing our valley
from Tywardreath Bay. This ridge comes to its highest and narrowest
just over the chimneys of Lawhibbet, and there the old Britons
once planted an earthwork overlooking the bay on one hand and the
river-passage on the other. Castle Dore is its name; a close of short
smooth turf set within two circular ramparts and two fosses choked
with brambles. Thither we children climbed, whether to be alone with
our games--for I do not suppose my father entered the earthwork twice
in a year, and no tillage ever disturbed it, though we possessed
a drawerful of coins ploughed up from time to time in the field
outside--or to watch the sails in the bay and the pack-horses jingling
along the ridge, which contracted until it came abreast of us and
at once began to widen towards Fowey and the coast; so that it came
natural to feign ourselves robbers sitting there in our fastness and
waiting to dash out upon the rich convoys as they passed under our
I talk as if we three had played this game with one mind. But indeed I
was six years younger than the others, and barely nine years old when
my brother Mark tired of it and left me, who hitherto had been his
obedient scout, to play at the game alone. For Margery turned to
follow Mark in this as in everything, although with her it had been
more earnest play. For him the fun began and ended with the ambush,
the supposed raid and its swashing deeds of valour; for her all these
were but incident to a scheme, long brooded on, by which we were to
amass plunder sufficient to buy back the family estate of Lantine with
all the consequence due to an ancient name in which the rest of us
forgot to feel any pride. But this was my sister Margery's way; to
whom, as honour was her passion, so the very shadows of old repute,
dead loyalties, perished greatness, were idols to be worshipped. By a
ballad, a story of former daring or devotion, a word even, I have seen
her whole frame shaken and her eyes brimmed with bright tears; nay, I
have seen tears drop on her clasped hands, in our pew in St. Sampson's
Church, with no more cause than old Parson Kendall's stuttering
through the prayer for the King's Majesty--and this long before the
late trouble had come to distract our country. She walked our fields
beside us, but in company with those who walked them no longer; when
she looked towards Lantine 'twas with an angry affection. In the
household she filled her dead mother's place, and so wisely that we
all relied on her without thinking to wonder or admire; yet had we
stayed to think, we had confessed to ourselves that the love in which
her care for us was comprehended reached above any love we could repay
or even understand--that she walked a path apart from us, obedient to
a call we could not hear.
In her was born the spirit which sends men to die for a cause; but
since God had fashioned her a girl and condemned her to housework, she
took (as it were) her own hope in her hands and laid it all upon her
twin brother. They should have been one, not twain. He had the frame
to do, and for him she nourished the spirit to impel. With her own
high thoughts she clothed him her hero, and made him mine also. And
Mark took our homage enough, without doubting he deserved it. He was
in truth a fine fellow, tall, upright, and handsome, with the delicate
Lantine hands and a face in which you saw his father's features
refined and freshly coloured to the model of the Lantine portraits
which hung in the best sitting-room to remind us of our lost glories.
For me, I take after my mother, who was a farmer's daughter of no
I remember well the Christmas Eve of 1643, when the call came for
Mark; a night very clear and crisp, with the stars making a brave show
against the broad moon, and a touch of frost against which we wrapped
ourselves warmly before the household sallied down to the great Parc
an Wollas orchard above the ford, to bless the apple-trees. My father
led the way as usual with his fowling-piece under his arm, Mark
following with another; after them staggered Lizzie Pascoe, the
serving maid, with the great bowl of lamb's wool; Margery followed, I
at her side, and the men after us with their wives, each carrying a
cake or a roasted apple on a string. We halted as usual by the
bent tree in the centre of the orchard, and there, having hung our
offerings on the bough, formed a circle, took hands and chanted, while
Lizzie splashed cider against the trunk--
"Here's to thee, old apple-tree
Whence to bud and whence to blow,
And whence to bear us apples enow--
Hats full, packs full,
Great bushel sacks full,
And every one a pocket full--
With hurrah! and fire off the gun!"
I remember the moment's wait on the flint-lock and the flame and roar
of my father's piece, shattering echoes across the dark water and far
up the creek where the herons roosted. And out of the echoes a voice
answered--a man's voice hailing across the ford.
Mark took a torch, and, running down to the water's edge, waved it
to guide the stranger over. By-and-by we caught sight of him, a
tall trooper on horseback with the moonlight and torchlight flaming
together on his steel morion and gorget. He picked his way carefully
to shore and up the bank and reined up his dripping horse in the midst
of us with a laugh.
"Hats full, pockets full, eh? Good-evenin', naybours, and a merry
Christmas, and I'm sure I wish you may get it. Which of 'ee may happen
to be Master Ephr'm Lantine?"
My father announced himself, and the trooper drew out a parchment and
"'Tisn' no proper light here," said my father, fumbling with the
packet, and not caring to own that he could not read. "Come to the
house, honest man, and we'll talk it over; for thou'lt sleep with us,
"Ay, and drink to your apple-trees too," the trooper answered very
heartily. So my father led the way and we followed, Margery gripping
my hand tight, and the rest talking in loud whispers. They guessed
what the man's business was.
An hour later, when the ashen faggot had been lit and the
cider-drinking and carolling were fairly started in the kitchen,
Margery packed me off to bed; and afterwards came and sat beside me
for a while, very silent, listening with me to the voices below.
"Where is Mark?" I asked, for I missed his clear tenor.
"In the parlour. He and father and the soldier are talking there."
"Is Mark going to fight?"
She bent down, slipped an arm round my nee' and caught me to her in a
sudden breathless hug.
"But he may be killed," I objected.
"No, no; we must pray against that." She said it confidently, and I
knew Margery had a firm belief that what was prayed for fitly must
be granted. "I will see to that, morning and evening: we will pray
together. But you must pray sometimes between whiles, when I am not by
to remind you--many times a day--promise me, Jack."
I promised, and it made me feel better. Margery had a way of managing
things, a way which I had learned to trust. We said no more but
Good-night: in a little while she left me and I jumped out of bed and
punctually started to keep my new promise.
Next morning--Christmas Day--we all attended church together; that is
to say, all we of the family, for our guest chose rather to remain
in the parlour with the cider-mug. Parson Kendall preached to us at
length on Obedience and the authority delegated by God upon kings; and
working back to his text, which was I. Samuel, xvii. 42, wound up with
some particular commendation of "the young man to-day going forth from
amongst us"--which turned all heads towards the Lawhibbet pew and set
Mark blushing and me almost as shamefacedly, but Margery, after the
first flow of colour, turned towards her brother with bright proud
That same afternoon between three and four o'clock--so suddenly was
all decided--Mark rode away from us on the young sorrel, and the
trooper beside him, to join the force Sir Bevill Grenvill was
collecting for Sir Ralph Hopton at Liskeard. To his father he said
good-bye at the yard-gate, but Margery and I walked beside the horses
to the ford and afterwards stood and watched their crossing, waving
many times as Mark turned and waved a hand back, and the red sun over
behind us blinked on the trooper's cap and shoulder-piece. Just before
they disappeared we turned away together--for it is unlucky to watch
anyone out of sight--and I saw that Margery was trembling from head to
"But he will come back," said I, to comfort her.
"Yes," she answered, "he will come back." With that she paused, and
broke forth, twisting her handkerchief, "Jack, if I were a man--" and
so checked herself.
"Why, you think more of the Cause than Mark does, I believe!" I put
"Not more than Mark--not more than Mark! Jack, you mustn't say that:
you mustn't think it!"
"And a great deal more of our name," I went on sturdily, disregarding
her tone, which I considered vehement beyond reason. "'Tis a strange
thing to me, Margery, that of us three you should be the one to think
everything of the name of Lantine, who are a girl and must take
another when you marry."
She halted and turned on me with more anger than I had ever seen on
her face. She even stamped her foot. "Never!" she said, and again
"Oh, well--" I began; but she had started walking rapidly, and
although I caught her up, not another word would she say to me until
we reached home.
For a year we saw no more of our brother, and received of him only two
letters (for he hated penwork), the both very cheerful. Yet within
a month of his going, on a still clear day in January, we listened
together to the noise of a pitched battle in which he was fighting, a
short six miles from us as the crow flies. I have often admired how
men who were happily born too late to witness the troubles of those
times will make their own pictures of warfare, as though it changed at
once the whole face of the country and tenour of folk's lives; whereas
it would be raging two valleys away and men upon their own farms
ploughing to the tune of it, with nothing seen by them then or
afterwards; or it would leap suddenly across the hills, filling the
roads with cursing weary men, and roll by, leaving a sharp track of
ruin for the eye to follow and remember it by. So on this afternoon,
when Hopton and the Cornish troops were engaging and defeating Ruthen
on Braddock Down, Margery and I counted the rattles of musketry borne
down to us on the still reaches of the river and, climbing to the
earthwork past the field where old Will Retallack stuck to his
ploughing with an army of gulls following and wheeling about him as
usual, spied the smoke rolling over the edge of Boconnoc woodland to
the north-east; but never a soldier we saw that day or for months
A little before the end of the day the rebel army broke and began to
roll back through Liskeard and towards the passes of the Tamar, and
Mark followed with his troops to Saltash, into Devonshire, and as far
as Chagford, where he rode by Mr. Sydney Godolphin in the skirmish
which gave that valiant young gentleman his mortal wound. Soon after
the whole of the King's forces retired upon Tavistock, where a truce
was patched up between the opposing factions in the West. But this did
not release Mark, who was kept at duty on the border until May--when
the strife burst out again--and joined the pursuit after Stratton
Heath. Thereafter he fought at Lansdowne, and in the operations
against Bristol, and later in the same year, having won a cornetcy in
the King's Horse, bore his part in the many brisk expeditions led by
Hopton through Dorsetshire and Hampshire into Sussex.
'Twas from Worthing he came back to us a few days before Christmas,
and his mission was to beat up recruits for his troop in the season of
slackness before the Spring campaign. He had grown almost two inches,
his chest was fuller, his voice manly, and his handsome face not
spoiled (Margery declared it improved) by a scar across the cheek, won
in a raid upon Poole. He had borne himself gallantly, and our prayers
had prevailed with God to save him from serious hurt even in the
furious charge at Lansdowne, when of two thousand horse no more than
six hundred reached the crest of the hill. He greeted us all lovingly
and made no disguise of his joy to be at home again, though but on a
And yet even on the first happy evening, when we walked up through the
dusk together to the old earthwork, and he told us the first chapter
of his adventures, I seemed to see, or rather to feel, that our
brother was not wholly a better man for his campaigning. To be sure,
a soldier must be allowed an oath or two; but Mark slipped out one
before his sister which took me like a slap across the cheek. He bit
his lip the moment it was out, and talked rapidly and at random for a
while, with a dark flush on his face. Margery pretended that she
had not heard, and for the rest he told his story with a manly
carelessness which became him. Once only, when he described the entry
of the troops into Bristol and their behaviour there--while Margery
turned her eyes aside for a moment, that were dim for the death of
Slanning and Trevanion--he came to a pause with a grin that invited me
to be knowing beyond my years. The old Mark would never have looked at
me with that meaning.
On the whole he behaved well, and took Margery's adoration with great
patience. He had the wit to wish to fall nothing in her eyes. His new
and earthlier view of war, as a game with coarse rewards, he confided
to me; and this not in words but in a smile now and then and a general
air when safe from his sister's eyes, of being passably amused by her
high-fangled nonsense. His business of beating up recruits took him
away from us for days together; and we missed him on Christmas Eve
when we christened the apple-trees as usual. It was I who discovered
and kept it from Margery--who supposed him as far away as St. Austell,
and tried to find that distance a sufficient excuse--that he had spent
the night a bare mile away, hobnobbing with the owner of Lantine, a
rich man who had used to look down on our family but thought it worth
while to make friends with this promising young soldier.
"And I mean to be equal with him and his likes," said Mark to me
afterwards by way of excuse. "A man may rise by soldiering as by any
other calling--and quicker too, perhaps, in these days."
The same thought clearly was running in his head a week later, when he
took leave of us once more by the ford.
"Come back to us, Mark!" Margery wept this time, with her arms about
"Ay, sweetheart, and with an estate in my pocket."
"Ah, forget that old folly! Come back with body safe and honour
bright, and God may take the rest."
He slapped his pocket with a laugh as he shook up the reins.
Then followed five quiet anxious months. 'Twas not until early in
June that, by an express from Ashburton in Devon, we heard that our
brother's fortune was still rising, he having succeeded to the command
of his company made vacant by the wounding of Captain Sir Harry
Welcome. "And this is no mean achievement for a poor yeoman's son," he
wrote, "in an army where promotion goes as a rule to them that have
estates to pawn. But I hope in these days some few may serve his
Majesty and yet prosper, and that my dear Margery may yet have her
wish and be mistress in Lantine." Margery read this letter and knit
her brow thoughtfully. "It was like Mark to think of writing so," said
she; "but I have not thought of Lantine for this many a day."
"And he might have left thinking of it," said I, "until these troubles
are over and the King's peace established."
"Tut," she answered smiling, "he does not think of it but only to
please me. 'Tis his way to speak what comes to his tongue to give us
"For all that, he need not have misjudged us," I grumbled; and then
was sorry for the pain with which she looked at me.
"It is you, Jack, who misjudged!" She spoke it sharply. We still
prayed together for our brother twice a day; but she knew--and either
dared not or cared not to ask why--that since his first home-coming
my love had cooled towards him. Very likely she believed me to be
The hay-harvest found and passed us in peace, and the wheat was near
ripe, when, towards the close of July, rumours came to us of an army
marching towards Cornwall under command of the Earl of Essex; by
persuasion (it was said) of the Lord Robarts, whose seat of Lanhydrock
lies on our bank of the river about three miles above Lostwithiel,
facing the Lord Mohun's house of Boconnoc across the valley. My Lord
Mohun, after some wavering at first, had cast in his fortune with
the King's party, to which belonged well nigh all the gentry of our
neighbourhood; and had done so in good time for his reputation. But
the Lord Robarts was an obstinate clever man who chose the other side
and stuck to it in despite of first misfortunes. We guessed therefore
that if the Parliamentarians came by his invitation they would not
neglect a district on which he staked so much for mastery; and sure
enough, about July 25th, we heard that Essex had reached Bodmin with
the mass of his forces, Sir Richard Grenvill having retired before him
and moved hastily with the Queen's troop to Truro. After this, Margery
and I used to climb every morning to the earthwork and spy all the
country round for signs of the hated troopers. Yet day passed after
day with nought to be seen, and little to be heard but further
rumours, of which the most constant said that the King himself was
following Essex with an army, and had already seized and crossed the
passes of the Tamar.
'Twas on the 2nd of August that the bolt fell; when after mounting
the slope at daybreak with nothing to warn us, we stepped through the
dykes into the old camp. A heavy dew hung in beads on the brambles,
and at the second dyke I had turned and was holding aside a brier to
let Margery pass, when a short cry from her fetched me right-about and
staring into the face of a tall soldier grinning at us over the bank.
In the enclosure behind him (as we saw through a gap) were a number of
men in mud-coloured jerkins, quietly mounting a couple of cannon.
"Good morning!" said the soldier amiably, with an up-country twang in
his voice, "Good-morning, my pretty dears! And if you come from the
farm below, what may be the name of it?"
"Lawhibbet," I answered, seeing that Margery closed her lips tight.
"Ay, Lawhibbet; that's the name I was told." He nodded in the
"Are you the rebels?" I blurted out, while Margery gripped my arm; but
this boldness only fetched a laugh from the big man.
"Some of 'em," said he; "though you'll have to unlearn that name, my
young whipstercock, seein' we're here to stay for a while. The Earl
marched down into Fowey last night while you were asleep, and is down
there now making it right and tight. Do you ever play at blind-man's
buff in these parts?"
Three or four soldiers had gathered behind him by this, and were
staring down on us. One of them blew a clumsy kiss to Margery.
"Do you mean the child's game?" I asked, wondering whatever he could
be driving at.
"I do; but perhaps, sir, you are too old to remember it." He winked
at the men and they guffawed. "It begins, 'How many horses has your
father got?' 'Six,' says you; 'black, red, and grey'--or that's the
number according to our instructions. 'Very good then,' says we; 'turn
round three times and catch which you may.' And the moral is, don't be
surprised if you find the stable empty when you get home. There's a
detachment gone to attend to it after seizing the ford below; hungry
men, all of them. No doubt they'll be visiting the bacon-rack after
the stable, and if missy knows where to pick up the new-laid eggs she
might put a score aside for us poor artillerymen."
We turned from them and hurried down the slope. "Rebels!" said Margery
once, under her breath; but the blow had stunned us and we could not
talk. In the stable yard we found, as the artillerymen had promised,
a company of soldiers leading out the horses, and my father watching
them with that patient look which never deserted him. He turned to
"Go into the kitchen, my dear. They will want food next, and we have
to do what we can. They have been civil, and promise to pay for all
they take. I do not think they will show any roughness."
Margery obeyed with a set face. For the next hour she and Lizzie were
busy in the kitchen, frying ham and eggs, boiling great pans of milk,
cutting up all the bread of the last baking, and heating the oven for
a fresh batch. The men, I am bound to say, took their food civilly,
that morning and afterwards; and for a fortnight at least they paid
reasonably for all they took. For several days I hung closer about
the ingle than ever I had done in my life; not that a boy of fourteen
could be any protection to the women-folk, but to be ready at least to
give an alarm should insult be offered. But we had to do with decent
men, who showed themselves friendly not only in the house but in their
camp down by the ford, whither, after the first morning, Lizzie and
I trudged it twice a day with baskets of provisions. Lizzie indeed
talked freely with them, but I held my tongue and glowered (I dare
say) in my foolish hate. Margery kept to the house.
'Twas, I think, on August 15th that the first hope of release came to
us, by the King's troops seizing the ford-head across the river; and
this happened as suddenly as our first surprise. Lizzie and I were
carrying down our baskets at four o'clock that day, when we heard a
sound of musketry on the St. Veep shore and on top of it a bugle twice
blown. Running to the top of a knoll from which the river spread in
view, I saw some rebels of our detachment splashing out from shore in
a hurry. The leaders reached mid-stream or thereabouts, and paused.
Doubtless they could see better than I what was happening; for after
they had stood there a couple of minutes, holding their fire--the
musketry on the St. Veep bank continuing all the while--some twenty
men came running out of the woods there and fled across towards us,
many bullets splashing into the water behind them. They reached their
comrades in the river-bed, and the whole body stood irresolute, facing
the shore where nothing showed but a glint of steel here and there
between the trees. Thus for ten further minutes, perhaps, they
hesitated; then turned and came sullenly back across the rising water.
In this manner the royal troops won the ford-head, and kept it; for
although the two cannon opened fire that evening from the earthwork
above us, and dropped many balls among the trees, they did not
dislodge the regiment (Colonel Lloyd's) which lay there and held one
of the few passes by which the rebels could break away.
For--albeit I knew nothing of this at the time--by withdrawing his
headquarters to Lostwithiel and holding our narrow ridge with Fowey at
the end of it seaward, the Earl had led his army into a trap, and
one which his Majesty was now fast closing. Already he had drawn his
troops across the river-meadows above Lostwithiel; and, whatever help
the Earl might have hoped to fetch from the sea at his base, he was
there prevented by the quickness of Sir Jacob Astley in seizing a
fort on the other side of the harbour's mouth as well as a battery
commanding the town from that shore, and in flinging a hundred men
into each, who easily beat off all ships from entering. From this
comfortable sea-entrance then Essex perforce turned for his stores to
Twyardreath Bay on the western side of the ridge, where he landed a
couple of cargoes at the mouth of the little river Par; but on the
25th the Prince Maurice sent down 2,000 horse and 1,000 foot, and
after sharp skirmishing blocked this inlet also. So now we had the
whole rebel army cooped around us and along the two sides of the
ridge, trampling our harvest and eating our larders bare, with no
prospect but a surrender; which yet the Earl refused, although his
Majesty thrice offered to treat with him.
This (I say) was the position, though we at Lawhibbet knew not how
desperate 'twas for the rebels our guests; only that our food was
pinched to short rations of bread and that payment had ceased, though
the sergeants still gave vouchers duly for the little we could supply.
The battery above us kept silence day after day, save twice when the
Royalists made a brief show of forcing the pass; but at intervals each
day we would hear a brisk play of artillery a little higher up the
stream, where they had planted a fort on the high ground by St.
Nectan's Chapel, to pound at Lostwithiel in the valley. For my part I
could have pitied the rebels, so worn they were with weeks of hunger
and watching, to which the weather added another misery, turning at
the close of the month to steady rain with heavy fogs covering land
and sea, and no wind to disperse them. Margery had no pity; but I
believed would have starved cheerfully--if that could have helped--to
see these poor sodden wretches in worse plight.
I think 'twas on the morning of the 28th that the Royalists across the
ford showed a flag of truce; which having been answered, a small party
of horse came riding over, the leader with a letter for the Earl of
Essex which he was suffered to carry to Fowey, riding thither in the
midst of an escort of six and leaving his own men behind on the near
side of the ford.
While they waited by their horses I drew near to one of them and asked
him if he knew aught of my brother, Captain Mark Lantine. He answered,
after eyeing me sharply, that he knew my brother well--a very gallant
officer, now serving with the Earl of Cleveland's brigade.
"That will be on the slope beneath Boconnoc," said I.
"How know you that?" he asked briskly, and I was telling him that the
dispositions of the Royal troops were no secret to the rebels
(warning of all fresh movements being brought daily to the ford from
Lostwithiel), when a sergeant interrupted and, forbidding any further
converse, packed me off homeward, yet not unkindly.
For what came of this talk Margery--to whom I reported it that same
evening--must bear the credit. For two days she brooded over it,
keeping silence even beyond her wont, and then on the night of the
30th, at nine o'clock, when I was scarce abed, she tapped at my door
and bade me arise and dress myself. She had an expedition to propose,
no less than that we should cross the river and pay Mark a visit in
Her boldness took away my breath: yet as she whispered her plan it did
not seem impossible or, bating the chance of being shot by a stray
outpost, so very dangerous. A heavy fog lay over the hills, as it
had lain for nights. The tide was flowing. My father's boat had been
dragged ashore and lay bottom upwards under a cliff about three
hundred yards above the ford. If we could reach and right it without
being discovered, either one of us was clever enough, with an oar over
the stern, to scull noiselessly across to the entrance of a creek
where the current would take us up towards Boconnoc between banks held
on either side by Royalists; to whom, if they surprised us, we could
tell our business.
The plan (I say) was a promising one. It miscarried only after we had
righted the boat and were dragging it across the strip of shingle
between the meadow bank and the water's edge. A quick-eared sentry
caught the sound and challenged at two gunshots' distance. I had the
boat's nose afloat as I heard his feet stumbling over the uneven
foreshore: but the paddles and even the bottom-boards were lying on
the beach behind us. There was no help for it. Margery stepped on
board swiftly and silently, and I pushed well out into the stream,
following until the water rose to my middle and so standing while
the fellow challenged again. For a minute we kept mute as mice. The
footsteps hesitated and came to a halt by the water's edge a full
twenty yards below, and I guessed that the fog had blurred for him the
distance as well as the direction of the sound. Very quietly I heaved
myself over the stern and into the boat, which swung broadside to
the current and so was borne up and beyond danger from him. But the
mischief was, we were drifting up the main channel which ended in the
Lostwithiel marshes and must pretty certainly lead us into the enemy's
hands, unless before striking the moors below the town we could by
some means push across to the farther bank. We leaned over, dipped our
arms in the water, and with the least possible noise began to paddle.
Even in the darkness the tall banks were familiar, and between skill
and good fortune we came to shore on the left bank below a coppice and
just within sight of the town lights. Between us and them lay a broad
marsh-land through which the river wound, and along the edge of which,
under the trees skirting this shore, we started at a timorous run,
pulling up now and again to listen.
So we had come abreast of the town without challenge, when the
sky almost on a sudden grew lighter, and we saw the church spire
glimmering and the weather-cock above it, and knew that the moon had
risen over the woodland in the shadow of which we crouched. And with
that Margery glanced back and plucked at my arm.
The moor we had skirted was full of horsemen, drawn up in rank and
motionless. They loomed through the river fog like giants--rank behind
rank, each man stiff and upright and silent in his saddle--as it were
a vale full of mounted ghosts awaiting the dreadful trumpet, and in my
terror I forgot to tremble at the nearness of our escape (for we had
all but blundered into them). But while I stared, and the wreaths of
fog hid and again disclosed them, I heard Margery's whisper--
"They are escaping to-night. It can only be by the bridge and across
Boconnoc downs. If we can win to Mark and warn him!"
She drew me off into the wood at a sharp angle, and we began to climb
beneath the branches. They dripped on us, soaking us to the skin; but
this we scarcely felt. We knew that we must be moving along the narrow
interval between the two lines of outposts. Beneath us, in the centre
of a basin of fog, a cluster of lights marked Lostwithiel: above, the
moon and the glow of Royalist camp-fires threw up the outline of the
ridge. Alongside of this we kept, and a little below it, crossing the
high-road which leads east from Lostwithiel bridge, and, beyond that,
advancing more boldly under the lee of a hedge beside a by-road which
curves towards the brow of Boconnoc downs. I began to find it strange
that, for all our secrecy, no one challenged us here. At a bend of the
lane, we came in view of a solitary cottage with one window lit and
blurring its light on the mist. We crept close, still on the far side
of the hedge, and, parting the bushes, peered at it.
It must be here or hereabouts (by all information) that the Earl of
Cleveland kept his quarters. The light shone into our eyes through a
drawn blind which told nothing; and Margery was dragging me forward to
knock at the door when it opened and two men stepped quickly across
the threshold and passed down the lane. They crossed the bar of light
swiftly and were gone into the dark; and they trod softly--so softly
that we listened in vain for their footfalls.
Then, almost before I knew it, Margery had dragged me across a gap in
the hedge and was rapping at the cottage door. No one answered. She
lifted the latch and entered, I at her heels. The kitchen--an ordinary
cottage kitchen--was empty A guttered candle stood on the table to the
right, and beside it lay a feathered cap. Margery stepped toward this
and had scarce time to touch the brim of it before a voice hailed us
in the doorway behind my shoulder.
It was our brother Mark.
"Well, of all--" he began, and came to a stop; his face white as a
sheet, as well it might be.
Margery rounded upon him. She must have been surprised, but she began
without explanation running to him and kissing him swiftly--
"Mark--dear Mark, we have news for thee, instant news! Sure, Heaven
directed us to-night that you should be the first to hear it. Mark,
we passed the rebel cavalry in the valley, and for certain they will
attempt to break through to-night."
"Yes, yes," said he peevishly, pulling at an end of his long
love-locks, "we have had that scare often enough, these last few
"But we passed them close--saw them plainly in rank below Lostwithiel
bridge, and every man in saddle. Even now they will be moving--"
Mark swung about and passed out at the open door. He had not returned
Margery's kiss. "I must be off, then, to visit my videttes," said he
quickly, and then paused as if considering. "For you, the cottage here
will not be safe: it stands close beside the line of march and I must
get down a company of musketeers. You had best follow me--" he took a
step and paused again: "No, there will not be time."
"Tell us in what direction to go and we will fend for ourselves and
leave you free."
"Through the garden, then, at the back and into the woods--the fence
has a gap and from it a path leads up to a quarry among the trees; you
cannot miss. The quarry is full of brambles--good hiding, in case we
have trouble. No cavalryman will win so far, you may be sure."
Margery gathered her skirts about her, and we stole out into the
darkness. At the door she turned up her face to Mark. "Kiss me, my
brother." He kissed her, and breaking away (as I thought) with a low
groan, strode from us up the lane.
"Now why should he go up the lane?" mused Margery: and I too wondered.
For the first alarm must needs come from the lower end towards which
he had been walking with his other visitor, when we first spied on the
cottage through the bushes.
But 'twas not for us to guess how the troops were disposed or where
the outposts lay. We made our escape through the little garden, and,
blundering along the woodland path behind it, came at length to a
thicket of brambles over which hung the scarp of the quarry with a
fringe of trees above it pitch-black against the foggy moonlight. Here
on the soaked ground I found a clear space and a tumbled stone or two,
on which we crouched together, sleepless and intently listening.
For an hour we heard no sound. Then the valley towards Lostwithiel
shook with a dull explosion, which puzzled us a great deal. (But the
meaning, I have since learnt was this:--Two prisoners in the church
there had contrived to climb up into the steeple and, pulling the
ladder after them, jeered down upon the rebels' Provost Marshal, who
was now preparing for a night retreat of the Infantry upon Fowey and
in a hurry to be gone. "I'll fetch you down," said he, and with a
barrel of powder blew most of the slates off the roof but without
harming the defiant pair who were found still perched on the steeple
After this the hours passed without sound. It seemed incredible, this
silence in the ring of wakeful outposts. Margery shivered now and
again, and I knew that her eyes were open, though she said nothing.
For me, towards morning, I dropped into a doze, and woke to the
tightening of her hand upon my arm.
I listened with her. The sky had grown grey about us, and up through
the dripping trees came a soft and regular footfall, as of a body