Part 2 out of 7
weapons. Should I not have done the like by Peter if I had sought his
life? Should I not have sought it in the same open fashion, and so
killed him at my pleasure and leisure, and without risk or reproach from
Sir John was stricken thoughtful. Here was logic hard and clear as ice;
and the knight of Arwenack was no fool. But whilst he stood frowning
and perplexed at the end of that long tirade, it was Rosamund who gave
Sir Oliver his answer.
"You ran no risk of reproach from any, do you say?"
He turned, and was abashed. He knew the thought that was running in her
"You mean," he said slowly, gently, his accents charged with reproachful
incredulity, "that I am so base and false that I could in this fashion
do what I dared not for your sake do openly? 'Tis what you mean.
Rosamund! I burn with shame for you that you can think such thoughts of
one whom...whom you professed to love."
Her coldness fell from her. Under the lash of his bitter, half-scornful
accents, her anger mounted, whelming for a moment even her anguish in
her brother's death.
"You false deceiver!" she cried. "There are those who heard you vow his
death. Your very words have been reported to me. And from where he lay
they found a trail of blood upon the snow that ran to your own door.
Will you still lie?"
They saw the colour leave his face. They saw his arms drop limply to
his sides, and his eyes dilate with obvious sudden fear.
"A...a trail of blood?" he faltered stupidly.
"Aye, answer that!" cut in Sir John, fetched suddenly from out his
doubts by that reminder.
Sir Oliver turned upon Killigrew again. The knight's words restored to
him the courage of which Rosamund's had bereft him. With a man he could
fight; with a man there was no need to mince his words.
"I cannot answer it," he said, but very firmly, in a tone that brushed
aside all implications. "If you say it was so, so it must have been.
Yet when all is said, what does it prove? Does it set it beyond doubt
that it was I who killed him? Does it justify the woman who loved me to
believe me a murderer and something worse?" He paused, and looked at
her again, a world of reproach in his glance. She had sunk to a chair,
and rocked there, her fingers locking and interlocking, her face a mask
of pain unutterable.
"Can you suggest what else it proves, sir?" quoth Sir John, and there
was doubt in his voice.
Sir Oliver caught the note of it, and a sob broke from him.
"O God of pity!" he cried out. "There is doubt in your voice, and there
is none in hers. You were my enemy once, and have since been in a
mistrustful truce with me, yet you can doubt that I did this thing.
But she...she who loved me has no room for any doubt!"
"Sir Oliver," she answered him, "the thing you have done has broken
quite my heart. Yet knowing all the taunts by which you were brought to
such a deed I could have forgiven it, I think, even though I could no
longer be your wife; I could have forgiven it, I say, but for the
baseness of your present denial."
He looked at her, white-faced an instant, then turned on his heel and
made for the door. There he paused.
"Your meaning is quite plain," said he. "It is your wish that I shall
take my trial for this deed." He laughed. "Who will accuse me to the
Justices? Will you, Sir John?"
"If Mistress Rosamund so desires me," replied the knight.
"Ha! Be it so. But do not think I am the man to suffer myself to be
sent to the gallows upon such paltry evidence as satisfies that lady.
If any accuser comes to bleat of a trail of blood reaching to my door,
and of certain words I spoke yesterday in anger, I will take my trial--
but it shall be trial by battle upon the body of my accuser. That is my
right, and I will have every ounce of it. Do you doubt how God will
pronounce? I call upon him solemnly to pronounce between me and such an
one. If I am guilty of this thing may He wither my arm when I enter the
"Myself I will accuse you," came Rosamund's dull voice. "And if you
will, you may claim your rights against me and butcher me as you
"God forgive you, Rosamund!" said Sir Oliver, and went out.
He returned home with hell in his heart. He knew not what the future
might hold in store for him; but such was his resentment against
Rosamund that there was no room in his bosom for despair. They should
not hang him. He would fight them tooth and claw, and yet Lionel should
not suffer. He would take care of that. And then the thought of Lionel
changed his mood a little. How easily could he have shattered their
accusation, how easily have brought her to her proud knees imploring
pardon of him! By a word he could have done it, yet he feared lest that
word must jeopardize his brother.
In the calm, still watches of that night, as he lay sleepless upon his
bed and saw things without heat, there crept a change into his mental
attitude. He reviewed all the evidence that had led her to her
conclusions, and he was forced to confess that she was in some measure
justified of them. If she had wronged him, he had wronged her yet more.
For years she had listened to all the poisonous things that were said of
him by his enemies--and his arrogance had made him not a few. She had
disregarded all because she loved him; her relations with her brother
had become strained on that account, yet now, all this returned to crush
her; repentance played its part in her cruel belief that it was by his
hand Peter Godolphin had fallen. It must almost seem to her that in a
sense she had been a party to his murder by the headstrong course to
which she had kept in loving the man her brother hated.
He saw it now, and was more merciful in judging her. She had been more
than human if she had not felt as he now saw that she must feel, and
since reactions are to be measured by the mental exaltations from which
they spring, so was it but natural that now she must hate him fiercely
whom she had loved wellnigh as fiercely.
It was a heavy cross to bear. Yet for Lionel's sake he must bear it
with what fortitude he could. Lionel must not be sacrificed to his
egoism for a deed that in Lionel he could not account other than
justified. He were base indeed did he so much as contemplate such a way
of escape as that.
But if he did not contemplate it, Lionel did, and went in terror during
those days, a terror that kept him from sleep and so fostered the fever
in him that on the second day after that grim affair he had the look of
a ghost, hollow-eyed and gaunt. Sir Oliver remonstrated with him and in
such terms as to put heart into him anew. Moreover, there was other
news that day to allay his terrors: the Justices, at Truro had been
informed of the event and the accusation that was made; but they had
refused point-blank to take action in the matter. The reason of it was
that one of them was that same Master Anthony Baine who had witnessed
the affront offered Sir Oliver. He declared that whatever had happened
to Master Godolphin as a consequence was no more than he deserved, no
more than he had brought upon himself, and he gave it as his decision
that his conscience as a man of honour would not permit him to issue any
warrant to the constable.
Sir Oliver received this news from that other witness, the parson, who
himself had suffered such rudeness at Godolphin's hands, and who, man of
the Gospel and of peace though he was, entirely supported the Justice's
decision--or so he declared.
Sir Oliver thanked him, protesting that it was kind in him and in Master
Baine to take such a view, but for the rest avowing that he had had no
hand in the affair, however much appearances might point to him.
When, however, it came to his knowledge two days later that the whole
countryside was in a ferment against Master Baine as a consequence of
the attitude he had taken up, Sir Oliver summoned the parson and
straightway rode with him to the Justice's house at Truro, there to
afford certain evidence which he had withheld from Rosamund and Sir John
"Master Baine," he said, when the three of them were closeted in that
gentleman's library, "I have heard of the just and gallant pronouncement
you have made, and I am come to thank you and to express my admiration
of your courage."
Master Baine bowed gravely. He was a man whom Nature had made grave.
"But since I would not that any evil consequences might attend your
action, I am come to lay proof before you that you have acted more
rightly even than you think, and that I am not the slayer."
"You are not?" ejaculated Master Baine in amazement.
"Oh, I assure you I use no subterfuge with you, as you shall judge. I
have proof to show you, as I say; and I am come to do so now before time
might render it impossible. I do not desire it to be made public just
yet, Master Baine; but I wish you to draw up some such document as would
satisfy the courts at any future time should this matter be taken
further, as well it may."
It was a shrewd plea. The proof that was not upon himself was upon
Lionel; but time would efface it, and if anon publication were made of
what he was now about to show, it would then be too late to look
"I assure you, Sir Oliver, that had you killed him after what happened I
could not hold you guilty of having done more than punish a boorish and
"I know sir. But it was not so. One of the pieces of evidence against
me--indeed the chief item--is that from Godolphin's body to my door
there was a trail of blood."
The other two grew tensely interested. The parson watched him with
"Now it follows logically, I think, inevitably indeed, that the murderer
must have been wounded in the encounter. The blood could not possibly
have been the victim's, therefore it must have been the slayer's. That
the slayer was wounded indeed we know, since there was blood upon
Godolphin's sword. Now, Master Baine, and you, Sir Andrew, shall be
witnesses that there is upon my body not so much as a scratch of recent
date. I will strip me here as naked as when first I had the mischance
to stray into this world, and you shall satisfy yourselves of that.
Thereafter I shall beg you, Master Baine, to indite the document I have
mentioned." And he removed his doublet as he spoke. "But since I will
not give these louts who accuse me so much satisfaction, lest I seem
to go in fear of them, I must beg, sirs, that you will keep this matter
entirely private until such time as its publication may be rendered
necessary by events."
They saw the reasonableness of his proposal, and they consented, still
entirely sceptical. But when they had made their examination they were
utterly dumbfounded to find all their notions entirely overset. Master
Baine, of course, drew up the required document, and signed and sealed
it, whilst Sir Andrew added his own signature and seal as witness
With this parchment that should be his buckler against any future need,
Sir Oliver rode home, uplifted. For once it were safe to do so, that
parchment should be spread before the eyes of Sir John Killigrew and
Rosamund, and all might yet be well.
If that Christmas was one of sorrow at Godolphin Court, it was nothing
less at Penarrow.
Sir Oliver was moody and silent in those days, given to sit for long
hours staring into the heart of the fire and repeating to himself again
and again every word of his interview with Rosamund, now in a mood of
bitter resentment against her for having so readily believed his guilt,
now in a gentler sorrowing humour which made full allowance for the
strength of the appearances against him.
His half-brother moved softly about the house now in a sort of
self-effacement, never daring to intrude upon Sir Oliver's abstractions.
He was well acquainted with their cause. He knew what had happened at
Godolphin Court, knew that Rosamund had dismissed Sir Oliver for all
time, and his heart smote him to think that he should leave his brother
to bear this burden that rightly belonged to his own shoulders.
The thing preyed so much upon his mind that in an expansive moment one
evening he gave it tongue.
"Noll," he said, standing beside his brother's chair in the firelit
gloom, and resting a hand upon his brother's shoulder, "were it not best
to tell the truth?"
Sir Oliver looked up quickly, frowning. "Art mad? quoth he. "The truth
would hang thee, Lal."
"It might not. And in any case you are suffering something worse than
hanging. Oh, I have watched you every hour this past week, and I know
the pain that abides in you. It is not just." And he insisted--"We had
best tell the truth."
Sir Oliver smiled wistfully. He put out a hand and took his brother's.
"'Tis noble in you to propose it, Lal."
"Not half so noble as it is in you to bear all the suffering for a deed
that was my own."
"Bah!" Sir Oliver shrugged impatiently; his glance fell away from
Lionel's face and returned to the consideration of the fire. "After
all, I can throw off the burden when I will. Such knowledge as that
will enhearten a man through any trial."
He had spoken in a harsh, cynical tone, and Lionel had turned cold at
his words. He stood a long while in silence there, turning them over in
his mind and considering the riddle which they presented him. He
thought of asking his brother bluntly for the key to it, for the precise
meaning of his disconcerting statement, but courage failed him. He
feared lest Sir 0liver should confirm his own dread interpretation of
He drew away after a time, and soon after went to bed. For days
thereafter the phrase rankled in his mind--"I can throw off the burden
when I will." Conviction grew upon him that Sir Oliver meant that he
was enheartened by the knowledge that by speaking if he choose he could
clear himself. That Sir Oliver would so speak he could not think.
Indeed, he was entirely assured that Sir Oliver was very far from
intending to throw off his burden. Yet he might come to change his
mind. The burden might grow too heavy, his longings for Rosamund too
clamorous, his grief at being in her eyes her brother's murderer too
Lionel's soul shuddered to contemplate the consequences to himself. His
fears were self-revelatory. He realized how far from sincere had been
his proposal that they should tell the truth; he perceived that it had
been no more than the emotional outburst of the moment, a proposal which
if accepted he must most bitterly have repented. And then came the
reflection that if he were guilty of emotional outbursts that could so
outrageously play the traitor to his real desires, were not all men
subject to the same? Might not his brother, too, come to fall a prey to
one of those moments of mental storm when in a climax of despair he
would find his burden altogether too overwhelming and in rebellion cast
it from him?
Lionel sought to assure himself that his brother was a man of stern
fibres, a man who never lost control of himself. But against this he
would argue that what had happened in the past was no guarantee of what
might happen in the future; that a limit was set to the endurance of
every man be he never so strong, and that it was far from impossible
that the limit of Sir Oliver's endurance might be reached in this
affair. If that happened in what case should he find himself? The
answer to this was a picture beyond his fortitude to contemplate. The
danger of his being sent to trial and made to suffer the extreme penalty
of the law would be far greater now than if he had spoken at once. The
tale he could then have told must have compelled some attention, for he
was accounted a man of unsmirched honour and his word must carry some
weight. But now none would believe him. They would argue from his
silence and from his having suffered his brother to be unjustly accused
that he was craven-hearted and dishonourable, and that if he had acted
thus it was because he had no good defence to offer for his deed. Not
only would he be irrevocably doomed, but he would be doomed with
ignominy, he would be scorned by all upright men and become a thing of
contempt over whose end not a tear would be shed.
Thus he came to the dread conclusion that in his endeavours to screen
himself he had but enmeshed himself the more inextricably. If Oliver
but spoke he was lost. And back he came to the question: What assurance
had he that Oliver would not speak?
The fear of this from occurring to him occasionally began to haunt him
day and night, and for all that the fever had left him and his wound was
entirely healed, he remained pale and thin and hollow-eyed. Indeed the
secret terror that was in his soul glared out of his eyes at every
moment. He grew nervous and would start up at the least sound, and he
went now in a perpetual mistrust of Oliver, which became manifest in a
curious petulance of which there were outbursts at odd times.
Coming one afternoon into the dining-room, which was ever Sir Oliver's
favourite haunt in the mansion of Penarrow, Lionel found his
half-brother in that brooding attitude, elbow on knee and chin on palm,
staring into the fire. This was so habitual now in Sir Oliver that it
had begun to irritate Lionel's tense nerves; it had come to seem to him
that in this listlessness was a studied tacit reproach aimed at himself.
"Why do you sit ever thus over the fire like some old crone?" he
growled, voicing at last the irritability that so long had been growing
Sir Oliver looked round with mild surprise in his glance. Then from
Lionel his eyes travelled to the long windows.
"It rains," he said.
"It was not your wont to be driven to the fireside by rain. But rain or
shine 'tis ever the same. You never go abroad."
"To what end?" quoth Sir Oliver, with the same mildness, but a wrinkle
of bewilderment coming gradually between his dark brows. "Do you
suppose I love to meet lowering glances, to see heads approach one
another so that confidential curses of me may be muttered?"
"Ha!" cried Lionel, short and sharp, his sunken eyes blazing suddenly.
"It has come to this, then, that having voluntarily done this thing to
shield me you now reproach me with it."
"I?" cried Sir Oliver, aghast.
"Your very words are a reproach. D'ye think I do not read the meaning
that lies under them?"
Sir Oliver rose slowly, staring at his brother. He shook his head and
"Lal, Lal!" he said. "Your wound has left you disordered, boy. With
what have I reproached you?" What was this hidden meaning of my words?
If you will read aright you will see it to be that to go abroad is to
involve myself in fresh quarrels, for my mood is become short, and I
will not brook sour looks and mutterings. That is all."
He advanced and set his hands upon his brother's shoulders. Holding him
so at arm's length he considered him, what time Lionel drooped his head
and a slow flush overspread his cheeks. "Dear fool!" he said, and shook
him. "What ails you? You are pale and gaunt, and not yourself at all.
I have a notion. I'll furnish me a ship and you shall sail with me to
my old hunting-grounds. There is life out yonder--life that will
restore your vigour and your zest, and perhaps mine as well. How say
Lionel looked up, his eye brightening. Then a thought occurred to him;
a thought so mean that again the colour flooded into his cheeks, for he
was shamed by it. Yet it clung. If he sailed with Oliver, men would
say that he was a partner in the guilt attributed to his brother.
He knew--from more than one remark addressed him here or there, and left
by him uncontradicted--that the belief was abroad on the countryside
that a certain hostility was springing up between himself and Sir Oliver
on the score of that happening in Godolphin Park. His pale looks and
hollow eyes had contributed to the opinion that his brother's sin was
weighing heavily upon him. He had ever been known for a gentle, kindly
lad, in all things the very opposite of the turbulent Sir Oliver, and it
was assumed that Sir Oliver in his present increasing harshness used his
brother ill because the lad would not condone his crime. A deal of
sympathy was consequently arising for Lionel and was being testified to
him on every hand. Were he to accede to such a proposal as Oliver now
made him, assuredly he must jeopardize all that.
He realized to the full the contemptible quality of his thought and
hated himself for conceiving it. But he could not shake off its
dominion. It was stronger than his will.
His brother observing this hesitation, and misreading it drew him to the
fireside and made him sit.
"Listen," he said, as he dropped into the chair opposite. "There is a
fine ship standing in the road below, off Smithick. You'll have seen
her. Her master is a desperate adventurer named Jasper Leigh, who is to
be found any afternoon in the alehouse at Penycumwick. I know him of
old, and he and his ship are to be acquired. He is ripe for any
venture, from scuttling Spaniards to trading in slaves, and so that the
price be high enough we may buy him body and soul. His is a stomach
that refuses nothing, so there be money in the venture. So here is ship
and master ready found; the rest I will provide--the crew, the
munitions, the armament, and by the end of March we shall see the Lizard
dropping astern. What do you say, Lal? 'Tis surely better than to sit,
moping here in this place of gloom."
"I'll...I'll think of it," said Lionel, but so listlessly that all Sir
Oliver's quickening enthusiasm perished again at once and no more was
said of the venture.
But Lionel did not altogether reject the notion. If on the one hand he
was repelled by it, on the other he was attracted almost despite
himself. He went so far as to acquire the habit of riding daily over to
Penycumwick, and there he made the acquaintance of that hardy and
scarred adventurer of whom Sir Oliver had spoken, and listened to the
marvels the fellow had to tell--many of them too marvellous to be true--
of hazards upon distant seas.
But one day in early March Master Jasper Leigh had a tale of another
kind for him, news that dispelled from Lionel's mind all interest in the
captain's ventures on the Spanish Main. The seaman had followed the
departing Lionel to the door of the little inn and stood by his stirrup
after he had got to horse.
"A word in your ear, good Master Tressilian," said he. "D'ye know what
is being concerted here against our brother?"
"Against my brother?"
"Ay--in the matter of the killing of Master Peter Godolphin last
Christmas. Seeing that the Justices would not move of theirselves, some
folk ha' petitioned the Lieutenant of Cornwall to command them to grant
a warrant for Sir Oliver's arrest on a charge o' murder. But the
Justices ha' refused to be driven by his lordship, answering that they
hold their office direct from the Queen and that in such a matter they
are answerable to none but her grace. And now I hear that a petition be
gone to London to the Queen herself, begging her to command her Justices
to perform their duty or quit their office."
Lionel drew a sharp breath, and with dilating eyes regarded the mariner,
but made him no answer.
Jasper laid a long finger against his nose and his eyes grew cunning.
I thought I'd warn you, sir, so as you may bid Sir Oliver look to
hisself. 'Tis a fine seaman and fine seamen be none so plentiful."
Lionel drew his purse from his pocket and without so much as looking
into its contents dropped it into the seaman's ready hand, with a
muttered word of thanks.
He rode home in terror almost. It was come. The blow was about to
fall, and his brother would at last be forced to speak. At Penarrow a
fresh shock awaited him. He learnt from old Nicholas that Sir Oliver
was from home, that he had ridden over to Godolphin Court.
The instant conclusion prompted by Lionel's terror was that already the
news had reached Sir Oliver and that he had instantly taken action; for
he could not conceive that his brother should go to Godolphin Court upon
any other business.
But his fears on that score were very idle. Sir Oliver, unable longer
to endure the present state of things, had ridden over to lay before
Rosamund that proof with which he had taken care to furnish himself. He
could do so at last without any fear of hurting Lionel. His journey,
however, had been entirely fruitless. She had refused point-blank to
receive him, and for all that with a humility entirely foreign to him he
had induced a servant to return to her with a most urgent message, yet
he had been denied. He returned stricken to Penarrow, there to find his
brother awaiting him in a passion of impatience.
"Well?" Lionel greeted him. "What will you do now?"
Sir Oliver looked at him from under brows that scowled darkly in
reflection of his thoughts.
"Do now? Of what do you talk?" quoth he.
"Have you not heard?" And Lionel told him the news.
Sir Oliver stared long at him when he had done, then his lips tightened
and he smote his brow.
"So!" he cried. "Would that be why she refused to see me? Did she
conceive that I went perhaps to plead? Could she think that? Could
He crossed to the fireplace and stirred the logs with his boot angrily.
"Oh! 'Twere too unworthy. Yet of a certainty 'tis her doing, this."
"What shall you do?" insisted Lionel, unable to repress the question
that was uppermost in his mind; and his voice shook.
"Do?" Sir Oliver looked at him over his shoulder. "Prick this bubble,
by heaven! Make an end of it for them, confound them and cover them
He said it roughly, angrily, and Lionel recoiled, deeming that roughness
and anger aimed at himself. He sank into a chair, his knees loosened by
his sudden fear. So it seemed that he had had more than cause for his
apprehensions. This brother of his who boasted such affection for him
was not equal to bearing this matter through. And yet the thing was so
unlike Oliver that a doubt still lingered with him.
"You...you will tell them the truth?" he said, in small, quavering
Sir Oliver turned and considered him more attentively.
"A God's name, Lal, what's in thy mind now?" he asked, almost roughly.
"Tell them the truth? Why, of course--but only as it concerns myself.
You're not supposing that I shall tell them it was you? You'll not be
accounting me capable of that?"
"What other way is there?"
Sir Oliver explained the matter. The explanation brought Lionel relief.
But this relief was ephemeral. Further reflection presented a new fear
to him. It came to him that if Sir Oliver cleared himself, of necessity
his own implication must follow. His terrors very swiftly magnified a
risk that in itself was so slender as to be entirely negligible. In his
eyes it ceased to be a risk; it became a certain and inevitable danger.
If Sir Oliver put forward this proof that the trail of blood had not
proceeded from himself, it must, thought Lionel, inevitably be concluded
that it was his own. As well might Sir Oliver tell them the whole
truth, for surely they could not fail to infer it. Thus he reasoned in
his terror, accounting himself lost irrevocably.
Had he but gone with those fears of his to his brother, or had he but
been able to abate them sufficiently to allow reason to prevail, he must
have been brought to understand how much further they carried him than
was at all justified by probability. Oliver would have shown him this,
would have told him that with the collapsing of the charge against
himself no fresh charge could be levelled against any there, that no
scrap of suspicion had ever attached to Lionel, or ever could. But
Lionel dared not seek his brother in this matter. In his heart he was
ashamed of his fears; in his heart he knew himself for a craven. He
realized to the full the hideousness of his selfishness, and yet, as
before, he was not strong enough to conquer it. In short, his love of
himself was greater than his love of his brother, or of twenty brothers.
The morrow--a blustering day of late March found him again at that
alehouse at Penycumwick in the company of Jasper Leigh. A course had
occurred to him, as the only course now possible. Last night his
brother had muttered something of going to Killigrew with his proofs
since Rosamund refused to receive him. Through Killigrew he would reach
her, he had said; and he would yet see her on her knees craving his
pardon for the wrong she had done him, for the cruelty she had shown
Lionel knew that Killigrew was absent from home just then; but he was
expected to return by Easter, and to Easter there was but a week.
Therefore he had little time in which to act, little time in which to
execute the project that had come into his mind. He cursed himself for
conceiving it, but held to it with all the strength of a weak nature.
Yet when he came to sit face to face with Jasper Leigh in that little
inn-parlour with the scrubbed table of plain deal between them, he
lacked the courage to set his proposal forth. They drank sherry sack
stiffly laced with brandy by Lionel's suggestion, instead of the more
customary mulled ale. Yet not until he had consumed the best part of a
pint of it did Lionel feel himself heartened to broaching his loathsome
business. Through his head hummed the words his brother had said some
time ago when first the name of Jasper Leigh had passed between them--"
a desperate adventurer ripe for anything. So the price be high enough
you may buy him body and soul." Money enough to buy Jasper Leigh was
ready to Lionel's hand; but it was Sir Oliver's money--the money that
was placed at Lionel's disposal by his half-brother's open-handed
bounty. And this money he was to employ for Oliver's utter ruin! He
cursed himself for a filthy, contemptible hound; he cursed the foul
fiend that whispered such suggestions into his mind; he knew himself,
despised himself and reviled himself until he came to swear to be strong
and to go through with whatever might await him sooner than be guilty of
such a baseness; the next moment that same resolve would set him
shuddering again as he viewed the inevitable consequences that must
Suddenly the captain set him a question, very softly, that fired the
train and blew all his lingering self-resistance into shreds.
"You'll ha' borne my warning to Sir Oliver?" he asked, lowering his
voice so as not to be overheard by the vintner who was stirring beyond
the thin wooden partition.
Master Lionel nodded, nervously fingering the jewel in his ear, his eyes
shifting from their consideration of the seaman's coarse, weather-tanned
and hairy countenance.
"I did," he said. "But Sir Oliver is headstrong. He will not stir."
"Will he not?" The captain stroked his bushy red beard and cursed
profusely and horribly after the fashion of the sea. "Od's wounds!
He's very like to swing if he bides him here."
"Ay," said Lionel, "if he bides." He felt his mouth turn dry as he
spoke; his heart thudded, but its thuds were softened by a slight
insensibility which the liquor had produced in him.
He uttered the words in so curious a tone that the sailor's dark eyes
peered at him from under his heavy sandy eyebrows. There was alert
inquiry in that glance. Master Lionel got up suddenly.
"Let us take a turn outside, captain," said he.
The captain's eyes narrowed. He scented business. There was something
plaguily odd about this young gentleman's manner. He tossed off the
remains of his sack, slapped down the pot and rose.
"Your servant, Master Tressilian," said he.
Outside our gentleman untethered his horse from the iron ring to which
he had attached the bridle; leading his horse he turned seaward and
strode down the road that wound along the estuary towards Smithick.
A sharp breeze from the north was whipping the water into white peaks of
foam; the sky was of a hard brightness and the sun shone brilliantly.
The tide was running out, and the rock in the very neck of the haven was
thrusting its black crest above the water. A cable's length this side
of it rode the black hull and naked spars of the Swallow--Captain
Lionel stepped along in silence, very gloomy and pensive, hesitating
even now. And the crafty mariner reading this hesitation, and anxious
to conquer it for the sake of such profit as he conceived might lie in
the proposal which he scented, paved the way for him at last.
I think that ye'll have some matter to propose to me." said he slyly.
"Out with it, sir, for there never was a man more ready to serve you."
"The fact is," said Lionel, watching the other's face with a sidelong
glance, "I am in a difficult position, Master Leigh."
"I've been in a many," laughed the captain, "but never yet in one
through which I could not win. Strip forth your own, and haply I can do
as much for you as I am wont to do for myself."
"Why, it is this wise," said the other. "My brother will assuredly hang
as you have said if he bides him here. He is lost if they bring him to
trial. And in that case, faith, I am lost too. It dishonours a man's
family to have a member of it hanged. 'Tis a horrible thing to have
"Indeed, indeed!" the sailor agreed encouragingly.
"I would abstract him from this," pursued Lionel, and at the same time
cursed the foul fiend that prompted him such specious words to cloak his
villainy. "I would abstract him from it, and yet 'tis against my
conscience that he should go unpunished for I swear to you, Master
Leigh, that I abhor the deed--a cowardly, murderous deed!"
"Ah!" said the captain. And lest that grim ejaculation should check his
gentleman he made haste to add--"To be sure! To be sure!"
Master Lionel stopped and faced the other squarely, his shoulders to his
horse. They were quite alone in as lonely a spot as any conspirator
could desire. Behind him stretched the empty beach, ahead of him the
ruddy cliffs that rise gently to the wooded heights of Arwenack.
"I'll be quite plain and open with you, Master Leigh. Peter Godolphin
was my friend. Sir Oliver is no more than my half-brother. I would
give a deal to the man who would abstract Sir Oliver secretly from the
doom that hangs over him, and yet do the thing in such a way that Sir
Oliver should not thereby escape the punishment he deserves."
It was strange, he thought, even as he said it, that he could bring his
lips so glibly to utter words that his heart detested.
The captain looked grim. He laid a finger upon Master Lionel's velvet
doublet in line with that false heart of his.
"I am your man," said he. "But the risk is great. Yet ye say that
ye'ld give a deal...."
"Yourself shall name the price," said Lionel quickly, his eyes burning
feverishly, his cheeks white.
"Oh I can contrive it, never fear," said the captain. "I know to a
nicety what you require. How say you now: if I was to carry him
overseas to the plantations where they lack toilers of just such thews
as his? "He lowered his voice and spoke with some slight hesitation,
fearing that he proposed perhaps more than his prospective employer
"He might return," was the answer that dispelled all doubts on that
"Ah!" said the skipper. "What o' the Barbary rovers, then! They lack
slaves and are ever ready to trade, though they be niggardly payers. I
never heard of none that returned once they had him safe aboard their
galleys. I ha' done some trading with them, bartering human freights
for spices and eastern carpets and the like."
Master Lionel breathed hard. "'Tis a horrible fate, is't not?"
The captain stroked his beard. "Yet 'tis the only really safe bestowal,
and when all is said 'tis not so horrible as hanging, and certainly less
dishonouring to a man's kin. Ye'ld be serving Sir Oliver and yourself."
"'Tis so, tis so," cried Master Lionel almost fiercely. "And the
The seaman shifted on his short, sturdy legs, and his face grew pensive.
"A hundred pound?" he suggested tentatively.
"Done with you for a hundred pounds," was the prompt answer--so prompt
that Captain Leigh realized he had driven a fool's bargain which it was
incumbent upon him to amend.
"That is, a hundred pound for myself," he corrected slowly. "Then there
be the crew to reckon for--to keep their counsel and lend a hand; 'twill
mean another hundred at the least."
Master Lionel considered a moment. "It is more than I can lay my hands
on at short notice. But, look you, you shall have a hundred and fifty
pounds in coin and the balance in jewels. You shall not be the loser in
that, I promise you. And when you come again, and bring me word that
all is done as you now undertake there shall be the like again."
Upon that the bargain was settled. And when Lionel came to talk of ways
and means he found that he had allied himself to a man who understood
his business thoroughly. All the assistance that the skipper asked was
that Master Lionel should lure his gentleman to some concerted spot
conveniently near the waterside. There Leigh would have a boat and his
men in readiness, and the rest might very safely be left to him.
In a flash Lionel bethought him of the proper place for this. He swung
round, and pointed across the water to Trefusis Point and the grey pile
of Godolphin Court all bathed in sunshine now.
"Yonder, at Trefusis Point in the shadow of Godolphin Court at eight
to-morrow night, when there will be no moon. I'll see that he is there.
But on your life do not miss him."
"Trust me,"said Master Leigh. "And the money?
"When you have him safely aboard come to me at Penarrow," he replied,
which showed that after all he did not trust Master Leigh any further
than he was compelled.
The captain was quite satisfied. For should his gentleman fail to
disburse he could always return Sir Oliver to shore.
On that they parted. Lionel mounted and rode away, whilst Master Leigh
made a trumpet of his hands and hallooed to the ship.
As he stood waiting for the boat that came off to fetch him, a smile
slowly overspread the adventurer's rugged face. Had Master Lionel seen
it he might have asked himself how far it was safe to drive such
bargains with a rogue who kept faith only in so far as it was
profitable. And in this matter Master Leigh saw a way to break faith
with profit. He had no conscience, but he loved as all rogues love to
turn the tables upon a superior rogue. He would play Master Lionel most
finely, most poetically false; and he found a deal to chuckle over in
the contemplation of it.
Master Lionel was absent most of the following day from Penarrow, upon a
pretext of making certain purchases in Truro. It would be half-past
seven when he returned; and as he entered he met Sir Oliver in the hall.
"I have a message for you from Godolphin Court," he announced, and saw
his brother stiffen and his face change colour. "A boy met me at the
gates and bade me tell you that Mistress Rosamund desires a word with
Sir Oliver's heart almost stopped, then went off at a gallop. She asked
for him! She had softened perhaps from her yesterday's relentlessness.
She would consent at last to see him!
"Be thou blessed for these good tidings!" he answered on a note of high
excitement. "I go at once." And on the instant he departed. Such was
his eagerness, indeed, that under the hot spur of it he did not even
stay to fetch that parchment which was to be his unanswerable advocate.
The omission was momentous.
Master Lionel said no word as his brother swept out. He shrank back a
little into the shadows. He was white to the lips and felt as he would
stifle. As the door closed he moved suddenly. He sprang to follow Sir
Oliver. Conscience cried out to him that he could not do this thing.
But Fear was swift to answer that outcry. Unless he permitted what was
planned to take its course, his life might pay the penalty.
He turned, and lurched into the dining-room upon legs that trembled.
He found the table set for supper as on that other night when he had
staggered in with a wound in his side to be cared for and sheltered by
Sir Oliver. He did not approach the table; he crossed to the fire, and
sat down there holding out his hands to the blaze. He was very cold and
could not still his trembling. His very teeth chattered.
Nicholas came in to know if he would sup. He answered unsteadily that
despite the lateness of the hour he would await Sir Oliver's return.
"Is Sir Oliver abroad?" quoth the servant in surprise.
"He went out a moment since, I know not whither," replied Lionel. "But
since he has not supped he is not like to be long absent."
Upon that he dismissed the servant, and sat huddled there, a prey to
mental tortures which were not to be repressed. His mind would turn
upon naught but the steadfast, unwavering affection of which Sir Oliver
ever had been prodigal towards him. In this very matter of Peter
Godolphin's death, what sacrifices had not Sir Oliver made to shield
him? From so much love and self-sacrifice in the past he inclined to
argue now that not even in extreme peril would his brother betray him.
And then that bad streak of fear which made a villain of him reminded
him that to argue thus was to argue upon supposition, that it would be
perilous to trust such an assumption; that if, after all, Sir Oliver
should fail him in the crucial test, then was he lost indeed.
When all is said, a man's final judgment of his fellows must be based
upon his knowledge of himself; and Lionel, knowing himself incapable of
any such sacrifice for Sir Oliver, could not believe Sir Oliver capable
of persisting in such a sacrifice as future events might impose. He
reverted to those words Sir Oliver had uttered in that very room two
nights ago, and more firmly than ever he concluded that they could have
but one meaning.
Then came doubt, and, finally, assurance of another sort, assurance that
this was not so and that he knew it; assurance that he lied to himself,
seeking to condone the thing he did. He took his head in his hands and
groaned loud. He was a villain, a black-hearted, soulless villain! He
reviled himself again. There came a moment when he rose shuddering,
resolved even in this eleventh hour to go after his brother and save him
from the doom that awaited him out yonder in the night
But again that resolve was withered by the breath of selfish fear.
Limply he resumed his seat, and his thoughts took a fresh turn. They
considered now those matters which had engaged them on that day when Sir
Oliver had ridden to Arwenack to claim satisfaction of Sir John
Killigrew. He realized again that Oliver being removed, what he now
enjoyed by his brother's bounty he would enjoy henceforth in his own
unquestioned right. The reflection brought him a certain consolation.
If he must suffer for his villainy, at least there would be
The clock over the stables chimed the hour of eight. Master Lionel
shrank back in his chair at the sound. The thing would be doing even
now. In his mind he saw it all--saw his brother come running in his
eagerness to the gates of Godolphin Court, and then dark forms resolve
themselves from the surrounding darkness and fall silently upon him. He
saw him struggling a moment on the ground, then, bound hand and foot, a
gag thrust into his mouth, he beheld him in fancy borne swiftly down the
slope to the beach and so to the waiting boat.
Another half-hour sat he there. The thing was done by now, and this
assurance seemed to quiet him a little.
Then came Nicholas again to babble of some possible mischance having
overtaken his master.
"What mischance should have overtaken him?" growled Lionel, as if in
scorn of the idea.
"I pray none indeed," replied the servant. "But Sir Oliver lacks not
for enemies nowadays, and 'tis scarce zafe for he to be abroad after
Master Lionel dismissed the notion contemptuously. For pretence's sake
he announced that he would wait no longer, whereupon Nicholas brought in
his supper, and left him again to go and linger about the door, looking
out into the night and listening for his master's return. He paid a
visit to the stables, and knew that Sir Oliver had gone forth afoot.
Meanwhile Master Lionel must make pretence of eating though actual
eating must have choked him. He smeared his platter, broke food, and
avidly drank a bumper of claret. Then he, too, feigned a growing
anxiety and went to join Nicholas. Thus they spent the weary night,
watching for the return of one who Master Lionel knew would return no
At dawn they roused the servants and sent them to scour the countryside
and put the news of Sir Oliver's disappearance abroad. Lionel himself
rode out to Arwenack to ask Sir John Killigrew bluntly if he knew aught
of this matter.
Sir John showed a startled face, but swore readily enough that he had
not so much as seen Sir Oliver for days. He was gentle with Lionel,
whom he liked, as everybody liked him. The lad was so mild and kindly
in his ways, so vastly different from his arrogant overbearing brother,
that his virtues shone the more brightly by that contrast.
"I confess it is natural you should come to me," said Sir John. "But,
my word on it, I have no knowledge of him. It is not my way to beset my
enemies in the dark."
"Indeed, indeed, Sir John, I had not supposed it in my heart," replied
the afflicted Lionel. "Forgive me that I should have come to ask a
question so unworthy. Set it down to my distracted state. I have not
been the same man these months, I think, since that happening in
Godolphin Park. The thing has preyed upon my mind. It is a fearsome
burden to know your own brother--though I thank God he is no more than
my half-brother--guilty of so foul a deed."
"How?" cried Killigrew, amazed. "You say that? You believed it
Master Lionel looked confused, a look which Sir John entirely
misunderstood and interpreted entirely in the young man's favour. And
it was thus and in that moment that was sown the generous seed of the
friendship that was to spring up between these two men, its roots
fertilized by Sir John's pity that one so gentle-natured, so honest, and
so upright should be cursed with so villainous a brother.
"I see, I see," he said. And he sighed. "You know that we are daily
expecting an order from the Queen to her Justices to take the action
which hitherto they have refused against your...against Sir Oliver." He
frowned thoughtfully. "D'ye think Sir Oliver had news of this?"
At once Master Lionel saw the drift of what was in the other's mind.
"I know it," he replied. "Myself I bore it him. But why do you ask?"
"Does it not help us perhaps to understand and explain Sir Oliver's
disappearance? God lack! Surely, knowing that, he were a fool to have
tarried here, for he would hang beyond all doubt did he stay for the
coming of her grace's messenger."
"My God!" said Lionel, staring. You...you think he is fled, then?"
Sir John shrugged. "What else is to be thought?"
Lionel hung his head. "What else, indeed?" said he, and took his leave
like a man overwrought, as indeed he was. He had never considered that
so obvious a conclusion must follow upon his work so fully to explain
the happening and to set at rest any doubt concerning it.
He returned to Penarrow, and bluntly told Nicholas what Sir John
suspected and what he feared himself must be the true reason of Sir
Oliver's disappearance. The servant, however, was none so easy to
"But do ee believe that he done it?" cried Nicholas. "Do ee believe it,
Master Lionel?" There was reproach amounting to horror in the servant's
"God help me, what else can I believe now that he is fled."
Nicholas sidled up to him with tightened lips. He set two gnarled
fingers on the young man's arm.
"He'm not fled, Master Lionel," he announced with grim impressiveness.
"He'm never a turntail. Sir Oliver he don't fear neither man nor devil,
and if so be him had killed Master Godolphin, he'd never ha' denied it.
Don't ee believe Sir John Killigrew. Sir John ever hated he."
But in all that countryside the servant was the only one to hold this
view. If a doubt had lingered anywhere of Sir Oliver's guilt, that
doubt was now dispelled by this flight of his before the approach of the
expected orders from the Queen.
Later that day came Captain Leigh to Penarrow inquiring for Sir Oliver.
Nicholas brought word of his presence and his inquiry to Master Lionel,
who bade him be admitted.
The thick-set little seaman rolled in on his bowed legs, and leered at
his employer when they were alone.
"He's snug and safe aboard," he announced. "The thing were done as
clean as peeling an apple, and as quiet."
"Why did you ask for him?" quoth Master Lionel.
"Why?" Jasper leered again. "My business was with him. There was some
talk between us of him going a voyage with me. I've heard the gossip
over at Smithick. This will fit in with it." He laid that finger of
his to his nose. "Trust me to help a sound tale along. 'T were a
clumsy business to come here asking for you, sir. Ye'll know now how to
account for my visit."
Lionel paid him the price agreed and dismissed him upon receiving the
assurance that the Swallow would put to sea upon the next tide.
When it became known that Sir Oliver had been in treaty with Master
Leigh for a passage overseas, and that it was but on that account that
Master Leigh had tarried in that haven, even Nicholas began to doubt.
Gradually Lionel recovered his tranquillity as the days flowed on. What
was done was done, and, in any case, being now beyond recall, there was
no profit in repining. He never knew how fortune aided him, as fortune
will sometimes aid a villain. The royal pour-suivants arrived some six
days later, and Master Baine was the recipient of a curt summons to
render himself to London, there to account for his breach of trust in
having refused to perform his sworn duty. Had Sir Andrew Flack but
survived the chill that had carried him off a month ago, Master Justice
Baine would have made short work of the accusation lodged against him.
As it was, when he urged the positive knowledge he possessed, and told
them how he had made the examination to which Sir Oliver had voluntarily
submitted, his single word carried no slightest conviction. Not for a
moment was it supposed that this was aught but the subterfuge of one who
had been lax in his duty and who sought to save himself from the
consequences of that laxity. And the fact that he cited as his
fellow-witness a gentleman now deceased but served to confirm his judges
in this opinion. He was deposed from his office and subjected to a
heavy fine, and there the matter ended, for the hue-and-cry that was
afoot entirely failed to discover any trace of the missing Sir Oliver.
For Master Lionel a new existence set in from that day. Looked upon as
one in danger of suffering for his brother's sins, the countryside
determined to help him as far as possible to bear his burden. Great
stress was laid upon the fact that after all he was no more than Sir
Oliver's half-brother; some there were who would have carried their
kindness to the lengths of suggesting that perhaps he was not even that,
and that it was but natural that Ralph Tressilian's second wife should
have repaid her husband in kind for his outrageous infidelities. This
movement of sympathy was led by Sir John Killigrew, and it spread in so
rapid and marked a manner that very soon Master Lionel was almost
persuaded that it was no more than he deserved, and he began to sun
himself in the favour of a countryside that hitherto had shown little
but hostility for men of the Tressilian blood.
The Swallow, having passed through a gale in the Bay of Biscay--a gale
which she weathered like the surprisingly steady old tub she was--
rounded Cape Finisterre and so emerged from tempest into peace, from
leaden skies and mountainous seas into a sunny azure calm. It was like
a sudden transition from winter into spring, and she ran along now,
close hauled to the soft easterly breeze, with a gentle list to port.
It had never been Master Leigh's intent to have got so far as this
without coming to an understanding with his prisoner. But the wind had
been stronger than his intentions, and he had been compelled to run
before it and to head to southward until its fury should abate. Thus it
fell out--and all marvellously to Master Lionel's advantage, as you
shall see--that the skipper was forced to wait until they stood along
the coast of Portugal--but well out to sea, for the coast of Portugal
was none too healthy just then to English seamen--before commanding Sir
Oliver to be haled into his presence.
In the cramped quarters of the cabin in the poop of the little vessel
sat her captain at a greasy table, over which a lamp was swinging
faintly to the gentle heave of the ship. He was smoking a foul pipe,
whose fumes hung heavily upon the air of that little chamber, and there
was a bottle of Nantes at his elbow.
To him, sitting thus in state, was Sir Oliver introduced--his wrists
still pinioned behind him. He was haggard and hollow-eyed, and he
carried a week's growth of beard on his chin. Also his garments were
still in disorder from the struggle he had made when taken, and from the
fact that he had been compelled to lie in them ever since.
Since his height was such that it was impossible for him to stand
upright in that low-ceilinged cabin, a stool was thrust forward for him
by one of the ruffians of Leigh's crew who had haled him from his
confinement beneath the hatchway.
He sat down quite listlessly, and stared vacantly at the skipper.
Master Leigh was somewhat discomposed by this odd calm when he had
looked for angry outbursts. He dismissed the two seamen who fetched Sir
Oliver, and when they had departed and closed the cabin door he
addressed his captive.
"Sir Oliver," said he, stroking his red beard, "ye've been most foully
The sunshine filtered through one of the horn windows and beat full upon
Sir Oliver's expressionless face.
"It was not necessary, you knave, to bring me hither to tell me so
much." he answered.
"Quite so," said Master Leigh. "But I have something more to add.
Ye'll be thinking that I ha' done you a disservice. There ye wrong me.
Through me you are brought to know true friends from secret enemies;
henceforward ye'll know which to trust and which to mistrust."
Sir Oliver seemed to rouse himself a little from his passivity,
stimulated despite himself by the impudence of this rogue. He stretched
a leg and smiled sourly.
"You'll end by telling me that I am in your debt," said he.
"You'll end by saying so yourself," the captain assured him. "D'ye know
what I was bidden do with you?"
"Faith, I neither know nor care," was the surprising answer, wearily
delivered. "If it is for my entertainment that you propose to tell me,
I beg you'll spare yourself the trouble."
It was not an answer that helped the captain. He pulled at his pipe a
"I was bidden," said he presently, "to carry you to Barbary and sell you
there into the service of the Moors. That I might serve you, I made
believe to accept this task."
"God's death!" swore Sir Oliver. You carry make-believe to an odd
"The weather has been against me. It were no intention o' mine to ha'
come so far south with you. But we've been driven by the gale. That is
overpast, and so that ye'll promise to bear no plaint against me, and to
make good some of the loss I'll make by going out of my course, and
missing a cargo that I wot of, I'll put about and fetch you home again
within a week.
Sir Oliver looked at him and smiled grimly. "Now what a rogue are you
that can keep faith with none!" he cried. "First you take money to
carry me off; and then you bid me pay you to carry me back again."
"Ye wrong me, sir, I vow ye do! I can keep faith when honest men employ
me, and ye should know it, Sir Oliver. But who keeps faith with rogues
is a fool--and that I am not, as ye should also know. I ha' done this
thing that a rogue might be revealed to you and thwarted, as well as
that I might make some little profit out of this ship o' mine. I am
frank with ye, Sir Oliver. I ha' had some two hundred pounds in money
and trinkets from your brother. Give me the like and...."
But now of a sudden Sir Oliver's listlessness was all dispelled. It
fell from him like a cloak, and he sat forward, wide awake and with some
show of anger even.
"How do you say?" he cried, on a sharp, high note.
The captain stared at him, his pipe neglected. "I say that if so be as
ye'll pay me the same sum which your brother paid me to carry you
"My brother?" roared the knight. "Do you say my brother?"
"I said your brother."
"Master Lionel?" the other demanded still.
"What other brothers have you?" quoth Master Leigh.
There fell a pause and Sir Oliver looked straight before him, his head
sunken a little between his shoulders. "Let me understand," he said at
length. "Do you say that my brother Lionel paid you money to carry me
off--in short, that my presence aboard this foul hulk of yours is due to
"Whom else had ye suspected? Or did ye think that I did it for my own
"Answer me," bellowed Sir Oliver, writhing in his bonds.
"I ha' answered you more than once already. Still, I tell you once
again, since ye are slow to understand it, that I was paid a matter of
two hundred pound by your brother, Master Lionel Tressilian, to carry
you off to Barbary and there sell you for a slave. Is that plain to
"As plain as it is false. You lie, you dog!"
"Softly, softly!" quoth Master Leigh, good-humouredly.
"I say you lie!"
Master Leigh considered him a moment. "Sets the wind so!" said he at
length, and without another word he rose and went to a sea-chest ranged
against the wooden wall of the cabin. He opened it and took thence a
leather bag. From this he produced a handful of jewels. He thrust them
under Sir Oliver's nose. "Haply," said he, "ye'll be acquainted with
some of them. They was given me to make up the sum since your brother
had not the whole two hundred pound in coin. Take a look at them."
Sir Oliver recognized a ring and a long pear-shaped pearl earring that
had been his brother's; he recognized a medallion that he himself had
given Lionel two years ago; and so, one by one, he recognized every
trinket placed before him.
His head drooped to his breast, and he sat thus awhile like a man
stunned. "My God!" he groaned miserably, at last. "Who, then, is left
to me! Lionel too! Lionel!" A sob shook the great frame. Two tears
slowly trickled down that haggard face and were lost in the stubble of
beard upon his chin. "I am accursed!" he said.
Never without such evidence could he have believed this thing. From the
moment that he was beset outside the gates of Godolphin Court he had
conceived it to be the work of Rosamund, and his listlessness was
begotten of the thought that she could have suffered conviction of his
guilt and her hatred of him to urge her to such lengths as these. Never
for an instant had he doubted the message delivered him by Lionel that
it was Mistress Rosamund who summoned him. And just as he believed
himself to be going to Godolphin Court in answer to her summons, so did
he conclude that the happening there was the real matter to which she
had bidden him, a thing done by her contriving, her answer to his
attempt on the previous day to gain speech with her, her manner of
ensuring that such an impertinence should never be repeated.
This conviction had been gall and wormwood to him; it had drugged his
very senses, reducing him to a listless indifference to any fate that
might be reserved him. Yet it had not been so bitter a draught as this
present revelation. After all, in her case there were some grounds for
the hatred that had come to take the place of her erstwhile love. But
in Lionel's what grounds were possible? What motives could exist for
such an action as this, other than a monstrous, a loathly egoism which
desired perhaps to ensure that the blame for the death of Peter
Godolphin should not be shifted from the shoulders that were unjustly
bearing it, and the accursed desire to profit by the removal of the man
who had been brother, father and all else to him? He shuddered in sheer
horror. It was incredible, and yet beyond a doubt it was true. For all
the love which he had showered upon Lionel, for all the sacrifices of
self which he had made to shield him, this was Lionel's return. Were
all the world against him he still must have believed Lionel true to
him, and in that belief must have been enheartened a little. And
now...His sense of loneliness, of utter destitution overwhelmed him.
Then slowly of his sorrow resentment was begotten, and being begotten it
grew rapidly until it filled his mind and whelmed in its turn all else.
He threw back his great head, and his bloodshot, gleaming eyes fastened
upon Captain Leigh, who seated now upon the sea-chest was quietly
observing him and waiting patiently until he should recover the wits
which this revelation had scattered.
"Master Leigh," said he, what is your price to carry me home again to
"Why, Sir Oliver," said he, "I think the price I was paid to carry you
off would be a fair one. The one would wipe out t'other as it were."
"You shall have twice the sum when you land me on Trefusis Point again,"
was the instant answer.
The captain's little eyes blinked and his shaggy red eyebrows came
together in a frown. Here was too speedy an acquiescence. There must
be guile behind it, or he knew naught of the ways of men.
"What mischief are ye brooding?" he sneered.
"Mischief, man? To you?" Sir Oliver laughed hoarsely. "God's light,
knave, d'ye think I consider you in this matter, or d'ye think I've room
in my mind for such petty resentments together with that other?"
It was the truth. So absolute was the bitter sway of his anger against
Lionel that he could give no thought to this rascally seaman's share in
"Will ye give me your word for that?"
"My word? Pshaw, man! I have given it already. I swear that you shall
be paid the sum I've named the moment you set me ashore again in
England. Is that enough for you? Then cut me these bonds, and let us
make an end of my present condition."
"Faith, I am glad to deal with so sensible a man! Ye take it in the
proper spirit. Ye see that what I ha' done I ha' but done in the way of
my calling, that I am but a tool, and that what blame there be belongs
to them which hired me to this deed."
"Aye, ye're but a tool--a dirty tool, whetted with gold; no more. 'Tis
admitted. Cut me these bonds, a God's name! I'm weary o' being trussed
like a capon."
The captain drew his knife, crossed to Sir Oliver's side and slashed his
bonds away without further word. Sir Oliver stood up so suddenly that
he smote his head against the low ceiling of the cabin, and so sat down
again at once. And in that moment from without and above there came a
cry which sent the skipper to the cabin door. He flung it open, and so
let out the smoke and let in the sunshine. He passed out on to the
poop-deck, and Sir Oliver--conceiving himself at liberty to do so--
In the waist below a little knot of shaggy seamen were crowding to the
larboard bulwarks, looking out to sea; on the forecastle there was
another similar assembly, all staring intently ahead and towards the
land. They were off Cape Roca at the time, and when Captain Leigh saw
by how much they had lessened their distance from shore since last he
had conned the ship, he swore ferociously at his mate who had charge of
the wheel. Ahead of them away on their larboard bow and in line with
the mouth of the Tagus from which she had issued--and where not a doubt
but she had been lying in wait for such stray craft as this--came a
great tall-masted ship, equipped with top-gallants, running wellnigh
before the wind with every foot of canvas spread.
Close-hauled as was the Swallow and with her top-sails and mizzen reefed
she was not making more than one knot to the Spaniard's five--for that
she was a Spaniard was beyond all doubt judging by the haven whence she
"Luff alee!" bawled the skipper, and he sprang to the wheel, thrusting
the mate aside with a blow of his elbow that almost sent him sprawling.
"'Twas yourself set the course," the fellow protested.
"Thou lubberly fool," roared the skipper. "I bade thee keep the same
distance from shore. If the land comes jutting out to meet us, are we
to keep straight on until we pile her up?" He spun the wheel round in
his hands, and turned her down the wind. Then he relinquished the helm
to the mate again. "Hold her thus," he commanded, and bellowing orders
as he went, he heaved himself down the companion to see them executed.
Men sprang to the ratlines to obey him, and went swarming aloft to let
out the reefs of the topsails; others ran astern to do the like by the
mizzen and soon they had her leaping and plunging through the green
water with every sheet unfurled, racing straight out to sea.
From the poop Sir Oliver watched the Spaniard. He saw her veer a point
or so to starboard, heading straight to intercept them, and he observed
that although this manceuvre brought her fully a point nearer to the
wind than the Swallow, yet, equipped as she was with half as much canvas
again as Captain Leigh's piratical craft, she was gaining steadily upon
them none the less.
The skipper came back to the poop, and stood there moodily watching that
other ship's approach, cursing himself for having sailed into such a
trap, and cursing his mate more fervently still.
Sir Oliver meanwhile took stock of so much of the Swallow's armament as
was visible and wondered what like were those on the main-deck below.
He dropped a question on that score to the captain, dispassionately, as
though he were no more than an indifferently interested spectator, and
with never a thought to his position aboard.
"Should I be racing her afore the Wind if I as properly equipped?"
growled Leigh. "Am I the man to run before a Spaniard? As it is I do
no more than lure her well away from land."
Sir Oliver understood, and was silent thereafter. He observed a bo'sun
and his mates staggering in the waist under loads of cutlasses and small
arms which they stacked in a rack about the mainmast. Then the gunner,
a swarthy, massive fellow, stark to the waist with a faded scarf tied
turban-wise about his head, leapt up the companion to the brass
carronade on the larboard quarter, followed by a couple of his men.
Master Leigh called up the bo'sun, bade him take the wheel, and
dispatched the mate forward to the forecastle, where another gun was
being prepared for action.
Thereafter followed a spell of racing, the Spaniard ever lessening the
distance between them, and the land dropping astern until it was no more
than a hazy line above the shimmering sea. Suddenly from the Spaniard
appeared a little cloud of white smoke, and the boom of a gun followed,
and after it came a splash a cable's length ahead of the Swallow's bows.
Linstock in hand the brawny gunner on the poop stood ready to answer
them when the word should be given. From below came the gunner's mate
to report himself ready for action on the main-deck and to receive his
Came another shot from the Spaniard, again across the bows of the
"'Tis a clear invitation to heave to," said Sir Oliver.
The skipper snarled in his fiery beard. "She has a longer range than
most Spaniards," said he. "But I'll not waste powder yet for all that.
We've none to spare."
Scarcely had he spoken when a third shot boomed. There was a
splintering crash overhead followed by a sough and a thud as the
maintopmast came hurtling to the deck and in its fall stretched a couple
of men in death. Battle was joined, it seemed. Yet Captain Leigh did
nothing in a hurry.
"Hold there!" he roared to the gunner who swung his linstock at that
moment in preparation.
She was losing way as a result of that curtailment of her mainmast, and
the Spaniard came on swiftly now. At last the skipper accounted her
near enough, and gave the word with an oath. The Swallow fired her
first and last shot in that encounter. After the deafening thunder of
it and through the cloud of suffocating smoke, Sir Oliver saw the high
forecastle of the Spaniard rent open.
Master Leigh was cursing his gunner for having aimed too high. Then he
signalled to the mate to fire the culverin of which he had charge. That
second shot was to be the signal for the whole broadside from the
main-deck below. But the Spaniard anticipated them. Even as the
skipper of the Swallow signalled the whole side of the Spaniard burst
into flame and smoke.
The Swallow staggered under the blow, recovered an instant, then listed
ominously to larboard.
"Hell!" roared Leigh. "She's bilging!" and Sir Oliver saw the Spaniard
standing off again, as if satisfied with what she had done. The mate's
gun was never fired, nor was the broadside from below. Indeed that
sudden list had set the muzzles pointing to the sea; within three
minutes of it they were on a level with the water. The Swallow had
received her death-blow, and she was settling down.
Satisfied that she could do no further harm, the Spaniard luffed and
hove to, awaiting the obvious result and intent upon picking up what
slaves she could to man the galleys of his Catholic Majesty on the
Thus the fate intended Sir Oliver by Lionel was to be fulfilled; and it
was to be shared by Master Leigh himself, which had not been at all in
that venal fellow's reckoning.
Sakr-el-Bahr, the hawk of the sea, the scourge of the Mediterranean and
the terror of Christian Spain, lay prone on the heights of Cape Spartel.
Above him on the crest of the cliff ran the dark green line of the
orange groves of Araish--the reputed Garden of the Hesperides of the
ancients, where the golden apples grew. A mile or so to eastward were
dotted the huts and tents of a Bedouin encampment on the fertile emerald
pasture-land that spread away, as far as eye could range, towards Ceuta.
Nearer, astride of a grey rock an almost naked goatherd, a lithe brown
stripling with a cord of camel-hair about his shaven head,
intermittently made melancholy and unmelodious sounds upon a reed pipe.
From somewhere in the blue vault of heaven overhead came the joyous
trilling of a lark, from below the silken rustling of the tideless sea.
Sakr-el-Bahr lay prone upon a cloak of woven camel-hair amid luxuriating
fern and samphire, on the very edge of the shelf of cliff to which he
had climbed. On either side of him squatted a negro from the Sus both
naked of all save white loin-cloths, their muscular bodies glistening
like ebony in the dazzling sunshine of mid-May. They wielded crude fans
fashioned from the yellowing leaves of date palms, and their duty was to
wave these gently to and fro above their lord's head, to give him air
and to drive off the flies.
Sakr-el-Bahr was in the very prime of life, a man of a great length of
body, with a deep Herculean torso and limbs that advertised a giant
strength. His hawk-nosed face ending in a black forked beard was of a
swarthiness accentuated to exaggeration by the snowy white turban wound
about his brow. His eyes, by contrast, were singularly light. He wore
over his white shirt a long green tunic of very light silk, woven along
its edges with arabesques in gold; a pair of loose calico breeches
reached to his knees; his brown muscular calves were naked, and his feet
were shod in a pair of Moorish shoes of crimson leather, with up-curling
and very pointed toes. He had no weapons other than the heavy-bladed
knife with a jewelled hilt that was thrust into his girdle of plaited
A yard or two away on his left lay another supine figure, elbows on the
ground, and hands arched above his brow to shade his eyes, gazing out to
sea. He, too, was a tall and powerful man, and when he moved there was
a glint of armour from the chain mail in which his body was cased, and
from the steel casque about which he had swathed his green turban.
Beside him lay an enormous curved scimitar in a sheath of brown leather
that was heavy with steel ornaments. His face was handsome, and
bearded, but swarthier far than his companion's, and the backs of his
long fine hands were almost black.
Sakr-el-Bahr paid little heed to him. Lying there he looked down the
slope, clad with stunted cork-trees and evergreen oaks; here and there
was the golden gleam of broom; yonder over a spur of whitish rock
sprawled the green and living scarlet of a cactus. Below him about the
caves of Hercules was a space of sea whose clear depths shifted with its
slow movement from the deep green of emerald to all the colours of the
opal. A little farther off behind a projecting screen of rock that
formed a little haven two enormous masted galleys, each of fifty oars,
and a smaller galliot of thirty rode gently on the slight heave of the
water, the vast yellow oars standing out almost horizontally from the
sides of each vessel like the pinions of some gigantic bird. That they
lurked there either in concealment or in ambush was very plain. Above
them circled a flock of seagulls noisy and insolent.
Sakr-el-Bahr looked out to sea across the straits towards Tarifa and the
faint distant European coastline just visible through the limpid summer
air. But his glance was not concerned with that hazy horizon; it went
no further than a fine white-sailed ship that, close-hauled, was beating
up the straits some four miles off. A gentle breeze was blowing from
the east, and with every foot of canvas spread to catch it she stood as
close to it as was possible. Nearer she came on her larboard tack, and
not a doubt but her master would be scanning the hostile African
littoral for a sight of those desperate rovers who haunted it and who
took toll of every Christian ship that ventured over-near. Sakr-el-Bahr
smiled to think how little the presence of his galleys could be
suspected, how innocent must look the sun-bathed shore of Africa to the
Christian skipper's diligently searching spy-glass. And there from his
height, like the hawk they had dubbed him, poised in the cobalt heavens
to plumb down upon his prey, he watched the great white ship and waited
until she should come within striking distance.
A promontory to eastward made something of a lee that reached out almost
a mile from shore. From the watcher's eyrie the line of demarcation was
sharply drawn; they could see the point at which the white crests of the
wind-whipped wavelets ceased and the water became smoother. Did she but
venture as far southward on her present tack, she would be slow to go
about again, and that should be their opportunity. And all unconscious
of the lurking peril she held steadily to her course, until not half a
mile remained between her and that inauspicious lee.
Excitement stirred the mail-clad corsair; he kicked his heels in the
air, then swung round to the impassive and watchful Sakr-el-Bahr.
"She will come! She will come!" he cried in the Frankish jargon--the
lingua franca of the African littoral.
"Insh' Allah!" was the laconic answer--"If God will."
A tense silence fell between them again as the ship drew nearer so that
now with each forward heave of her they caught a glint of the white
belly under her black hull. Sakr-el-Bahr shaded his eyes, and
concentrated his vision upon the square ensign flying from, her
mainmast. He could make out not only the red and yellow quarterings,
but the devices of the castle and the lion.
"A Spanish ship, Biskaine," he growled to his companion. "It is very
well. The praise to the One!"
"Will she venture in?" wondered the other.
"Be sure she will venture," was the confident answer. "She suspects no
danger, and it is not often that our galleys are to be found so far
westward. Aye, there she comes in all her Spanish pride."
Even as he spoke she reached that line of demarcation. She crossed it,
for there was still a moderate breeze on the leeward side of it, intent
no doubt upon making the utmost of that southward run.
"Now!" cried Biskaine--Biskaine-el-Borak was he called from the
lightning-like impetuousness in which he was wont to strike. He
quivered with impatience, like a leashed hound.
"Not yet," was the calm, restraining answer. "Every inch nearer shore
she creeps the more certain is her doom. Time enough to sound the
charge when she goes about. Give me to drink, Abiad," he said to one of
his negroes, whom in irony he had dubbed "the White."
The slave turned aside, swept away a litter of ferns and produced an
amphora of porous red clay; he removed the palm-leaves from the mouth of
it and poured water into a cup. Sakr-el-Bahr drank slowly, his eyes
never leaving the vessel, whose every ratline was clearly defined by now
in the pellucid air. They could see men moving on her decks, and the
watchman stationed in the foremast fighting-top. She was not more than
half a mile away when suddenly came the manceuvre to go about.
Sakr-el-Bahr leapt instantly to his great height and waved a long green
scarf. From one of the galleys behind the screen of rocks a trumpet
rang out in immediate answer to that signal; it was followed by the
shrill whistles of the bo'suns, and that again by the splash and creak
of oars, as the two larger galleys swept out from their ambush. The
long armoured poops were a-swarm with turbaned corsairs, their weapons
gleaming in the sunshine; a dozen at least were astride of the crosstree
of each mainmast, all armed with bows and arrows, and the ratlines on
each side of the galleys were black with men who swarmed there like
locusts ready to envelop and smother their prey.
The suddenness of the attack flung the Spaniard into confusion. There
was a frantic stir aboard her, trumpet blasts and shootings and wild
scurryings of men hither and thither to the posts to which they were
ordered by their too reckless captain. In that confusion her manceuvre
to go about went all awry, and precious moments were lost during which
she stood floundering, with idly flapping sails. In his desperate haste
the captain headed her straight to leeward, thinking that by running
thus before the wind he stood the best chance of avoiding the trap. But
there was not wind enough in that sheltered spot to make the attempt
successful. The galleys sped straight on at an angle to the direction
in which the Spaniard was moving, their yellow dripping oars flashing
furiously, as the bo'suns plied their whips to urge every ounce of sinew
in the slaves.
Of all this Sakr-el-Bahr gathered an impression as, followed by Biskaine
and the negroes, he swiftly made his way down from that eyrie that had
served him so well. He sprang from red oak to cork-tree and from
cork-tree to red oak; he leapt from rock to rock, or lowered himself
from ledge to ledge, gripping a handful of heath or a projecting stone,
but all with the speed and nimbleness of an ape. He dropped at last to
the beach, then sped across it at a run, and went bounding along a black
reef until he stood alongside of the galliot which had been left behind
by the other Corsair vessels. She awaited him in deep water, the length
of her oars from the rock, and as he came alongside, these oars were
brought to the horizontal, and held there firmly. He leapt down upon
them, his companions following him, and using them as a gangway, reached
the bulwarks. He threw a leg over the side, and alighted on a decked
space between two oars and the two rows of six slaves that were manning
each of them.
Biskaine followed him and the negroes came last. They were still
astride of the bulwarks when Sakr-el-Bahr gave the word. Up the middle
gangway ran a bo'sun and two of his mates cracking their long whips of
bullock-hide. Down went the oars, there was a heave, and they shot out
in the wake of the other two to join the fight.
Sakr-el-Bahr, scimitar in hand, stood on the prow, a little in advance
of the mob of eager babbling corsairs who surrounded him, quivering in
their impatience to be let loose upon the Christian foe. Above, along
the yardarm and up the ratlines swarmed his bowmen. From the mast-head
floated out his standard, of crimson charged with a green crescent.
The naked Christian slaves groaned, strained and sweated under the
Moslem lash that drove them to the destruction of their Christian
Ahead the battle was already joined. The Spaniard had fired one single
hasty shot which had gone wide, and now one of the corsair's
grappling-irons had seized her on the larboard quarter, a withering hail
of arrows was pouring down upon her decks from the Muslim crosstrees; up
her sides crowded the eager Moors, ever most eager when it was a
question of tackling the Spanish dogs who had driven them from their
Andalusian Caliphate. Under her quarter sped the other galley to take
her on the starboard side, and even as she went her archers and stingers
hurled death aboard the galleon.
It was a short, sharp fight. The Spaniards in confusion from the
beginning, having been taken utterly by surprise, had never been able to
order themselves in a proper manner to receive the onslaught. Still,
what could be done they did. They made a gallant stand against this
pitiless assailant. But the corsairs charged home as gallantly, utterly
reckless of life, eager to slay in the name of Allah and His Prophet and
scarcely less eager to die if it should please the All-pitiful that
their destinies should be here fulfilled. Up they went, and back fell
the Castilians, outnumbered by at least ten to one.
When Sakr-el-Bahr's galliot came alongside, that brief encounter was at
an end, and one of his corsairs was aloft, hacking from the mainmast the
standard of Spain and the wooden crucifix that was nailed below it. A
moment later and to a thundering roar of "Al-hamdolliah!" the green
crescent floated out upon the breeze.
Sakr-el-Bahr thrust his way through the press in the galleon's waist;
his corsairs fell back before him, making way, and as he advanced they
roared his name deliriously and waved their scimitars to acclaim him
this hawk of the sea, as he was named, this most valiant of all the
servants of Islam. True he had taken no actual part in the engagement.
It had been too brief and he had arrived too late for that. But his had
been the daring to conceive an ambush at so remote a western point, and
his the brain that had guided them to this swift sweet victory in the
name of Allah the One.
The decks were slippery with blood, and strewn with wounded and dying
men, whom already the Muslimeen were heaving overboard--dead and wounded
alike when they were Christians, for to what end should they be troubled
with maimed slaves?
About the mainmast were huddled the surviving Spaniards, weaponless and
broken in courage, a herd of timid, bewildered sheep.
Sakr-el-Bahr stood forward, his light eyes considering them grimly.
They must number close upon a hundred, adventurers in the main who had
set out from Cadiz in high hope of finding fortune in the Indies. Their
voyage had been a very brief one; their fate they knew--to toil at the
oars of the Muslim galleys, or at best, to be taken to Algiers or Tunis
and sold there into the slavery of some wealthy Moor.
Sakr-el-Bahr's glance scanned them appraisingly, and rested finally on
the captain, who stood slightly in advance, his face livid with rage and
grief. He was richly dressed in the Castilian black, and his velvet
thimble-shaped hat was heavily plumed and decked by a gold cross.
Sakr-el-Bahr salaamed ceremoniously to him. "Fortuna de guerra, senor
capitan," said he in fluent Spanish. "What is your name?"
"I am Don Paulo de Guzman," the man answered, drawing himself erect, and
speaking with conscious pride in himself and manifest contempt of his
"So! A gentleman of family! And well-nourished and sturdy, I should
judge. In the sôk at Algiers you might fetch two hundred philips. You
shall ransom yourself for five hundred."
"Por las Entranas de Dios!" swore Don Paulo who, like all pious Spanish
Catholics, favoured the oath anatomical. What else he would have added
in his fury is not known, for Sakr-el-Bahr waved him contemptuously
"For your profanity and want of courtesy we will make the ransom a
thousand philips, then," said he. And to his followers--"Away with him!
Let him have courteous entertainment against the coming of his ransom."
He was borne away cursing.
Of the others Sakr-el-Bahr made short work. He offered the privilege of
ransoming himself to any who might claim it, and the privilege was
claimed by three. The rest he consigned to the care of Biskaine, who
acted as his Kayla, or lieutenant. But before doing so he bade the
ship's bo'sun stand forward, and demanded to know what slaves there
might be on board. There were, he learnt, but a dozen, employed upon
menial duties on the ship--three Jews, seven Muslimeen and two heretics--
and they had been driven under the hatches when the peril threatened.
By Sakr-el-Bahr's orders these were dragged forth from the blackness
into which they had been flung. The Muslimeen upon discovering that
they had fallen into the hands of their own people and that their
slavery was at an end, broke into cries of delight, and fervent praise
of Allah than whom they swore there was no other God. The three Jews,
lithe, stalwart young men in black tunics that fell to their knees and
black skull-caps upon their curly black locks, smiled ingratiatingly,
hoping for the best since they were fallen into the hands of people who
were nearer akin to them than Christians and allied to them, at least,
by the bond of common enmity to Spain and common suffering at the hands
of Spaniards. The two heretics stood in stolid apathy, realizing that
with them it was but a case of passing from Charybdis to Scylla, and
that they had as little to hope for from heathen as from Christian. One
of these was a sturdy bowlegged fellow, whose garments were little
better than rags; his weather-beaten face was of the colour of mahogany
and his eyes of a dark blue under tufted eyebrows that once had been
red--like his hair and beard--but were now thickly intermingled with
grey. He was spotted like a leopard on the hands by enormous dark brown
Of the entire dozen he was the only one that drew the attention of
Sakr-el-Bahr. He stood despondently before the corsair, with bowed head
and his eyes upon the deck, a weary, dejected, spiritless slave who
would as soon die as live. Thus some few moments during which the
stalwart Muslim stood regarding him; then as if drawn by that persistent
scrutiny he raised his dull, weary eyes. At once they quickened, the
dulness passed out of them; they were bright and keen as of old. He
thrust his head forward, staring in his turn; then, in a bewildered way
he looked about him at the ocean of swarthy faces under turbans of all
colours, and back again at Sakr-el-Bahr.
"God's light!" he said at last, in English, to vent his infinite
amazement. Then reverting to the cynical manner that he had ever
affected, and effacing all surprise--
"Good day to you, Sir Oliver," said he. "I suppose ye'll give yourself
the pleasure of hanging me."
"Allah is great!" said Sakr-el-Bahr impassively.
How it came to happen that Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea, the Muslim
rover, the scourge of the Mediterranean, the terror of Christians, and
the beloved of Asad-ed-Din, Basha of Algiers, would be one and the same
as Sir Oliver Tressilian, the Cornish gentleman of Penarrow, is at long
length set forth in the chronicles of Lord Henry Goade. His lordship
conveys to us some notion of how utterly overwhelming he found that fact
by the tedious minuteness with which he follows step by step this
extraordinary metamorphosis. He devotes to it two entire volumes of
those eighteen which he has left us. The whole, however, may with
advantage be summarized into one short chapter.
Sir Oliver was one of a score of men who were rescued from the sea by
the crew of the Spanish vessel that had sunk the Swallow; another was
Jasper Leigh, the skipper. All of them were carried to Lisbon, and
there handed over to the Court of the Holy Office. Since they were
heretics all--or nearly all--it was fit and proper that the Brethren of
St. Dominic should undertake their conversion in the first place. Sir
Oliver came of a family that never had been famed for rigidity in
religious matters, and he was certainly not going to burn alive if the
adoption of other men's opinions upon an extremely hypothetical future
state would suffice to save him from the stake. He accepted Catholic
baptism with an almost contemptuous indifference. As for Jasper Leigh,
it will be conceived that the elasticity of the skipper's conscience was
no less than Sir Oliver's, and he was certainly not the man to be
roasted for a trifle of faith.
No doubt there would be great rejoicings in the Holy House over the
rescue of these two unfortunate souls from the certain perdition that
had awaited them. It followed that as converts to the Faith they were
warmly cherished, and tears of thanksgiving were profusely shed over
them by the Hounds of God. So much for their heresy. They were
completely purged of it, having done penance in proper form at an Auto
held on the Rocio at Lisbon, candle in hand and sanbenito on their
shoulders. The Church dismissed them with her blessing and an
injunction to persevere in the ways of salvation to which with such meek
kindness she had inducted them.
Now this dismissal amounted to a rejection. They were, as a
consequence, thrown back upon the secular authorities, and the secular
authorities had yet to punish them for their offence upon the seas. No
offence could be proved, it is true. But the courts were satisfied that
this lack of offence was but the natural result of a lack of
opportunity. Conversely, they reasoned, it was not to be doubted that
with the opportunity the offence would have been forthcoming. Their
assurance of this was based upon the fact that when the Spaniard fired
across the bows of the Swallow as an invitation to heave to, she had
kept upon her course. Thus, with unanswerable Castilian logic was the
evil conscience of her skipper proven. Captain Leigh protested on the
other hand that his action had been dictated by his lack of faith in
Spaniards and his firm belief that all Spaniards were pirates to be
avoided by every honest seaman who was conscious of inferior strength of
armaments. It was a plea that won him no favour with his narrow-minded
Sir Oliver fervently urged that he was no member of the crew of the
Swallow, that he was a gentleman who found himself aboard her very much
against his will, being the victim of a villainous piece of trepanning
executed by her venal captain. The court heard his plea with respect,
and asked to know his name and rank. He was so very indiscreet as to
answer truthfully. The result was extremely educative to Sir Oliver; it
showed him how systematically conducted was the keeping of the Spanish
archives. The court produced documents enabling his judges to recite to
him most of that portion of his life that had been spent upon the seas,
and many an awkward little circumstance which had slipped his memory
long since, which he now recalled, and which certainly was not
calculated to make his sentence lighter.
Had he not been in the Barbados in such a year, and had he not there
captured the galleon Maria de las Dolores? What was that but an act of
villainous piracy? Had he not scuttled a Spanish carack four years ago
in the bay of Funchal? Had he not been with that pirate Hawkins in the
affair at San Juan de Ulloa? And so on. Questions poured upon him and
He almost regretted that he had given himself the trouble to accept
conversion and all that it entailed at the hands of the Brethren of St.
Dominic. It began to appear to him that he had but wasted time and
escaped the clerical fire to be dangled on a secular rope as an offering
to the vengeful gods of outraged Spain.
So much, however, was not done. The galleys in the Mediterranean were
in urgent need of men at the time, and to this circumstance Sir Oliver,
Captain Leigh, and some others of the luckless crew of the Swallow owed
their lives, though it is to be doubted whether any of them found the
matter one for congratulation. Chained each man to a fellow, ankle to
ankle, with but a short length of links between, they formed part of a
considerable herd of unfortunates, who were driven across Portugal into
Spain and then southward to Cadiz. The last that Sir Oliver saw of
Captain Leigh was on the morning on which he set out from the reeking
Lisbon gaol. Thereafter throughout that weary march each knew the other
to be somewhere in that wretched regiment of galley-slaves; but they
never came face to face again.
In Cadiz Sir Oliver spent a month in a vast enclosed space that was open
to the sky, but nevertheless of an indescribable foulness, a place of
filth, disease, and suffering beyond human conception, the details of
which the curious may seek for himself in my Lord Henry's chronicles.
They are too revolting by far to be retailed here.
At the end of that month he was one of those picked out by an officer
who was manning a galley that was to convey the Infanta to Naples. He
owed this to his vigorous constitution which had successfully withstood
the infections of that mephitic place of torments, and to the fine thews
which the officer pummelled and felt as though he were acquiring a beast
of burden--which, indeed, is precisely what he was doing.
The galley to which our gentleman was dispatched was a vessel of fifty
oars, each manned by seven men. They were seated upon a sort of
staircase that followed the slope of the oar, running from the gangway
in the vessel's middle down to the shallow bulwarks.
The place allotted to Sir Oliver was that next the gangway. Here, stark
naked as when he was born, he was chained to the bench, and in those
chains, let us say at once, he remained, without a single moment's
intermission, for six whole months.
Between himself and the hard timbers of his seat there was naught but a
flimsy and dirty sheepskin. From end to end the bench was not more than
ten feet in length, whilst the distance separating it from the next one
was a bare four feet. In that cramped space of ten feet by four, Sir
Oliver and his six oar-mates had their miserable existence, waking and
sleeping--for they slept in their chains at the oar without sufficient
room in which to lie at stretch.
Anon Sir Oliver became hardened and inured to that unspeakable
existence, that living death of the galley-slave. But that first long
voyage to Naples was ever to remain the most terrible experience of his
life. For spells of six or eight endless hours at a time, and on one
occasion for no less than ten hours, did he pull at his oar without a
single moment's pause. With one foot on the stretcher, the other on the
bench in front of him, grasping his part of that appallingly heavy
fifteen-foot oar, he would bend his back to thrust forward--and upwards
so to clear the shoulders of the groaning, sweating slaves in front of
him--then he would lift the end so as to bring the blade down to the
water, and having gripped he would rise from his seat to throw his full
weight into the pull, and so fall back with clank of chain upon the
groaning bench to swing forward once more, and so on until his senses
reeled, his sight became blurred, his mouth parched and his whole body a
living, straining ache. Then would come the sharp fierce cut of the
boatswain's whip to revive energies that flagged however little, and
sometimes to leave a bleeding stripe upon his naked back.
Thus day in day out, now broiled and blistered by the pitiless southern
sun, now chilled by the night dews whilst he took his cramped and
unrefreshing rest, indescribably filthy and dishevelled, his hair and
beard matted with endless sweat, unwashed save by the rains which in
that season were all too rare, choked almost by the stench of his
miserable comrades and infested by filthy crawling things begotten of
decaying sheepskins and Heaven alone knows what other foulnesses of that
floating hell. He was sparingly fed upon weevilled biscuit and vile
messes of tallowy rice, and to drink he was given luke-warm water that
was often stale, saving that sometimes when the spell of rowing was more
than usually protracted the boatswains would thrust lumps of bread
sodden in wine into the mouths of the toiling slaves to sustain them.
The scurvy broke out on that voyage, and there were other diseases among
the rowers, to say nothing of the festering sores begotten of the
friction of the bench which were common to all, and which each must
endure as best he could. With the slave whose disease conquered him or
who, reaching the limit of his endurance, permitted himself to swoon,
the boat-swains had a short way. The diseased were flung overboard; the
swooning were dragged out upon the gangway or bridge and flogged there
to revive them; if they did not revive they were flogged on until they
were a horrid bleeding pulp, which was then heaved into the sea.
Once or twice when they stood to windward the smell of the slaves being
wafted abaft and reaching the fine gilded poop where the Infanta and her
attendants travelled, the helmsmen were ordered to put about, and for
long weary hours the slaves would hold the galley in position, backing
her up gently against the wind so as not to lose way.
The number that died in the first week of that voyage amounted to close
upon a quarter of the total. But there were reserves in the prow, and
these were drawn upon to fill the empty places. None but the fittest
could survive this terrible ordeal.
Of these was Sir Oliver, and of these too was his immediate neighbour at
the oar, a stalwart, powerful, impassive, uncomplaining young Moor, who
accepted his fate with a stoicism that aroused Sir Oliver's admiration.
For days they exchanged no single word together, their religions marking
them out, they thought, for enemies despite the fact that they were
fellows in misfortune. But one evening when an aged Jew who had
collapsed in merciful unconsciousness was dragged out and flogged in the
usual manner, Sir Oliver, chancing to behold the scarlet prelate who
accompanied the Infanta looking on from the poop-rail with hard
unmerciful eyes, was filled with such a passion at all this inhumanity
and at the cold pitilessness of that professed servant of the Gentle and
Pitiful Saviour, that aloud he cursed all Christians in general and that
scarlet Prince of the Church in particular.
He turned to the Moor beside him, and addressing him in Spanish--
"Hell," he said, "was surely made for Christians, which may be why they
seek to make earth like it."
Fortunately for him the creak and dip of the oars, the clank of chains,
and the lashes beating sharply upon the wretched Jew were sufficient to
muffle his voice. But the Moor heard him, and his dark eyes gleamed.
"There is a furnace seven times heated awaiting them, 0 my brother," he
replied, with a confidence which seemed to be the source of his present
stoicism. "But art thou, then, not a Christian?"
He spoke in that queer language of the North African seaboard, that
lingua franca, which sounded like some French dialect interspersed with
Arabic words. But Sir Oliver made out his meaning almost by intuition.
He answered him in Spanish again, since although the Moor did not appear
to speak it yet it was plain he understood it.
"I renounce from this hour," he answered in his passion. "I will
acknowledge no religion in whose name such things are done. Look me at
that scarlet fruit of hell up yonder. See how daintily he sniffs at his
pomander lest his saintly nostrils be offended by the exhalations of our
misery. Yet are we God's creatures made in God's image like himself.
What does he know of God? Religion he knows as he knows good wine, rich
food, and soft women. He preaches self-denial as the way to heaven, and
by his own tenets is he damned." He growled an obscene oath as he
heaved the great oar forward. "A Christian I?" he cried, and laughed
for the first time since he had been chained to that bench of agony. I
am done with Christians and Christianity!"
"Verily we are God's, and to Him shall we return," said the Moor.
That was the beginning of a friendship between Sir Oliver and this man,
whose name was Yusuf-ben-Moktar. The Muslim conceived that in Sir
Oliver he saw one upon whom the grace of Allah had descended, one who
was ripe to receive the Prophet's message. Yusuf was devout, and he
applied himself to the conversion of his fellow-slave. Sir Oliver
listened to him, however, with indifference. Having discarded one creed
he would need a deal of satisfying on the score of another before he
adopted it, and it seemed to him that all the glorious things urged by
Yusuf in praise of Islam he had heard before in praise of Christianity.
But he kept his counsel on that score, and meanwhile his intercourse
with the Muslim had the effect of teaching him the lingua franca, so
that at the end of six months he found himself speaking it like a
Mauretanian with all the Muslim's imagery and with more than the
ordinary seasoning of Arabic.
It was towards the end of that six months that the event took place
which was to restore Sir Oliver to liberty. In the meanwhile those
limbs of his which had ever been vigorous beyond the common wont had
acquired an elephantine strength. It was ever thus at the oar. Either
you died under the strain, or your thews and sinews grew to be equal to
their relentless task. Sir Oliver in those six months was become a man
of steel and iron, impervious to fatigue, superhuman almost in his