Part 7 out of 7
"Let us but win safely from this cove and they will never overtake us,"
"But their guns may," Sakr-el-Bahr quietly reminded them to damp their
confidence. His own alert mind had already foreseen this one chance of
escaping from the trap, but he had hoped that it would not be quite so
obvious to the others.
"That risk we must take," replied Asad. "We must trust to the night. To
linger here is to await certain destruction." He swung briskly about to
issue his orders. "Ali, summon the steersmen. Hasten! Vigitello, set
your whips about the slaves, and rouse them." Then as the shrill whistle
of the boatswain rang out and the whips of his mates went hissing and
cracking about the shoulders of the already half-awakened slaves, to
mingle with all the rest of the stir and bustle aboard the galeasse, the
Basha turned once more to Biskaine. "Up thou to the prow," he commanded,
"and marshal the men. Bid them stand to their arms lest it should come
to boarding. Go!" Biskaine salaamed and sprang down the companion.
Above the rumbling din and scurrying toil of preparation rang Asad's
"Crossbowmen, aloft! Gunners to the carronades! Kindle your linstocks!
Put out all lights!"
An instant later the cressets on the poop-rail were extinguished, as was
the lantern swinging from the rail, and even the lamp in the poop-house
which was invaded by one of the Basha's officers for that purpose. The
lantern hanging from the mast alone was spared against emergencies; but
it was taken down, placed upon the deck, and muffled.
Thus was the galeasse plunged into a darkness that for some moments was
black and impenetrable as velvet. Then slowly, as the eyes became
accustomed to it, this gloom was gradually relieved. Once more men and
objects began to take shape in the faint, steely radiance of the summer
After the excitement of that first stir the corsairs went about their
tasks with amazing calm and silence. None thought now of reproaching the
Basha or Sakr-el-Bahr with having delayed until the moment of peril to
take the course which all of them had demanded should be taken when first
they had heard of the neighbourhood of that hostile ship. In lines three
deep they stood ranged along the ample fighting platform of the prow; in
the foremost line were the archers, behind them stood the swordsmen,
their weapons gleaming lividly in the darkness. They crowded to the
bulwarks of the waist-deck and swarmed upon the rat-lines of the
mainmast. On the poop three gunners stood to each of the two small
cannon, their faces showing faintly ruddy in the glow of the ignited
Asad stood at the head of the companion, issuing his sharp brief
commands, and Sakr-el-Bahr, behind him, leaning against the timbers of
the poop-house with Rosamund at his side, observed that the Basha had
studiously avoided entrusting any of this work of preparation to himself.
The steersmen climbed to their niches, and the huge steering oars creaked
as they were swung out. Came a short word of command from Asad and a
stir ran through the ranks of the slaves, as they threw forward their
weight to bring the oars to the level. Thus a moment, then a second
word, the premonitory crack of a whip in the darkness of the gangway, and
the tomtom began to beat the time. The slaves heaved, and with a creak
and splash of oars the great galeasse skimmed forward towards the mouth
of the cove.
Up and down the gangway ran the boatswain's mates, cutting fiercely with
their whips to urge the slaves to the very utmost effort. The vessel
gathered speed. The looming headland slipped by. The mouth of the cove
appeared to widen as they approached it. Beyond spread the dark steely
mirror of the dead-calm sea.
Rosamund could scarcely breathe in the intensity of her suspense. She
set a hand upon the arm of Sakr-el-Bahr.
"Shall we elude them, after all?" she asked in a trembling whisper.
"I pray that we may not," he answered, muttering. "But this is the
handiwork I feared. Look!" he added sharply, and pointed.
They had shot clear to the headland. They were out of the cove, and
suddenly they had a view of the dark bulk of the galleon, studded with a
score of points of light, riding a cable's length away on their larboard
"Faster!" cried the voice of Asad. "Row for your lives, you infidel
swine! Lay me your whips upon these hides of theirs! Bend me these dogs
to their oars, and they'll never overtake us now."
Whips sang and thudded below them in the waist, to be answered by more
than one groan from the tormented panting slaves, who already were
spending every ounce of strength in this cruel effort to elude their own
chance of salvation and release. Faster beat the tomtom marking the
desperate time, and faster in response to it came the creak and dip of
oars and the panting, stertorous breathing of the rowers.
"Lay on! Lay on!" cried Asad, inexorable. Let them burst their lungs--
they were but infidel lungs!--so that for an hour they but maintained the
"We are drawing away!" cried Marzak in jubilation. "The praise to
And so indeed they were. Visibly the lights of the galleon were
receding. With every inch of canvas spread yet she appeared to be
standing still, so faint was the breeze that stirred. And whilst she
crawled, the galeasse raced as never yet she had raced since Sakr-el-Bahr
had commanded her, for Sakr-el-Bahr had never yet turned tail upon the
foe in whatever strength he found him.
Suddenly over the water from the galleon came a loud hail. Asad laughed,
and in the darkness shook his fist at them, cursing them in the name of
Allah and his Prophet. And then, in answer to that curse of his, the
galleon's side belched fire; the calm of the night was broken by a roar
of thunder, and something smote the water ahead of the Muslim vessel with
a resounding thudding splash.
In fear Rosamund drew closer to Sakr-el-Bahr. But Asad laughed again.
"No need to fear their marksmanship," he cried. "They cannot see us.
Their own lights dazzle them. On! On!"
"He is right," said Sakr-el-Bahr. "But the truth is that they will not
fire to sink us because they know you to be aboard."
She looked out to sea again, and beheld those friendly lights falling
farther and farther astern.
"We are drawing steadily away," she groaned. "They will never overtake
So feared Sakr-el-Bahr. He more than feared it. He knew that save for
some miraculous rising of the wind it must be as she said. And then out
of his despair leapt inspiration--a desperate inspiration, true child of
that despair of which it was begotten.
"There is a chance," he said to her. "But it is as a throw of the dice
with life and death for stakes."
"Then seize it," she bade him instantly. "For though it should go
against us we shall not be losers."
"You are prepared for anything?" he asked her.
"Have I not said that I will go down with you this night? Ah, don't
waste time in words!"
"Be it so, then," he replied gravely, and moved away a step, then
checked. "You had best come with me," he said.
Obediently she complied and followed him, and some there were who stared
as these two passed down the gangway, yet none attempted to hinder her
movements. Enough and to spare was there already to engage the thoughts
of all aboard that vessel.
He thrust a way for her, past the boatswain s mates who stood over the
slaves ferociously plying tongues and whips, and so brought her to the
waist. Here he took up the lantern which had been muffled, and as its
light once more streamed forth, Asad shouted an order for its extinction.
But Sakr-el-Bahr took no least heed of that command. He stepped to the
mainmast, about which the powder kegs had been stacked. One of these had
been broached against its being needed by the gunners on the poop. The
unfastened lid rested loosely atop of it. That lid Sakr-el-Bahr knocked
over; then he pulled one of the horn sides out of the lantern, and held
the now half-naked flame immediately above the powder.
A cry of alarm went up from some who had watched him. But above that cry
rang his sharp command:
The tomtom fell instantly silent, but the slaves took yet another stroke.
"Cease rowing!" he commanded again. "Asad!" he called. "Bid them pause,
or I'll blow you all straight into the arms of Shaitan." And he lowered
the lantern until it rested on the very rim of the powder keg.
At once the rowing ceased. Slaves, corsairs, officers, and Asad himself
stood paralyzed, all at gaze upon that grim figure illumined by the
lantern, threatening them with doom. It may have crossed the minds of
some to throw themselves forthwith upon him; but to arrest them was the
dread lest any movement towards him should precipitate the explosion that
must blow them all into the next world.
At last Asad addressed him, his voice half-choked with rage.
"May Allah strike thee dead! Art thou djinn-possessed?"
Marzak, standing at his father's side, set a quarrel to the bow which he
had snatched up. "Why do you all stand and stare?" he cried. "Cut him
down, one of you!" And even as he spoke he raised his bow. But his
father checked him, perceiving what must be the inevitable result.
"If any man takes a step towards me, the lantern goes straight into the
gunpowder," said Sakr-el-Bahr serenely. "And if you shoot me as you
intend, Mar-zak, or if any other shoots, the same will happen of itself.
Be warned unless you thirst for the Paradise of the Prophet."
"Sakr-el-Bahr!" cried Asad, and from its erstwhile anger his voice had
now changed to a note of intercession. He stretched out his arms
appealingly to the captain whose doom he had already pronounced in his
heart and mind. "Sakr-el-Bahr, I conjure thee by the bread and salt we
have eaten together, return to thy senses, my son."
"I am in my sense," was the answer, "and being so I have no mind for the
fate reserved me in Algiers--by the memory of that same bread and salt.
I have no mind to go back with thee to be hanged or sent to toil at an
"And if I swear to thee that naught of this shall come to pass?"
"Thou'lt be forsworn. I would not trust thee now, Asad. For thou art
proven a fool, and in all my life I never found good in a fool and never
trusted one--save once, and he betrayed me. Yesterday I pleaded with
thee, showing thee the wise course, and affording thee thine opportunity.
At a slight sacrifice thou mightest have had me and hanged me at thy
leisure. 'Twas my own life I offered thee, and for all that thou knewest
it, yet thou knewest not that I knew." He laughed. "See now what manner
of fool art thou? Thy greed hath wrought thy ruin. Thy hands were
opened to grasp more than they could hold. See now the consequence. It
comes yonder in that slowly but surely approaching galleon."
Every word of it sank into the brain of Asad thus tardily to enlighten
him. He wrung his hands in his blended fury and despair. The crew stood
in appalled silence, daring to make no movement that might precipitate
"Name thine own price," cried the Basha at length, "and I swear to thee
by the beard of the Prophet it shall be paid thee."
"I named it yesterday, but it was refused. I offered thee my liberty and
my life if that were needed to gain the liberty of another."
Had he looked behind him he might have seen the sudden lighting of
Rosamund's eyes, the sudden clutch at her bosom, which would have
announced to him that his utterances were none so cryptic but that she
had understood them.
"I will make thee rich and honoured, Sakr-el-Bahr," Asad continued
urgently. "Thou shalt be as mine own son. The Bashalik itself shall be
thine when I lay it down, and all men shall do thee honour in the
meanwhile as to myself."
"I am not to be bought, 0 mighty Asad. I never was. Already wert thou
set upon my death. Thou canst command it now, but only upon the
condition that thou share the cup with me. What is written is written.
We have sunk some tall ships together in our day, Asad. We'll sink
together in our turn to-night if that be thy desire."
"May thou burn for evermore in hell, thou black-hearted traitor!" Asad
cursed him, his anger bursting all the bonds he had imposed upon it.
And then, of a sudden, upon that admission of defeat from their Basha,
there arose a great clamour from the crew. Sakr-el-Bahr's sea-hawks
called upon him, reminding him of their fidelity and love, and asking
could he repay it now by dooming them all thus to destruction.
"Have faith in me!" he answered them. "I have never led you into aught
but victory. Be sure that I shall not lead you now into defeat--on this
the last occasion that we stand together."
"But the galleon is upon us!" cried Vigitello. And so, indeed, it was,
creeping up slowly under that faint breeze, her tall bulk loomed now
above them, her prow ploughing slowly forward at an acute angle to the
prow of the galeasse. Another moment and she was alongside, and with a
swing and clank and a yell of victory from the English seamen lining her
bulwarks her grappling irons swung down to seize the corsair ship at prow
and stern and waist. Scarce had they fastened, than a torrent of men in
breast-plates and morions poured over her side, to alight upon the prow
of the galeasse, and not even the fear of the lantern held above the
powder barrel could now restrain the corsairs from giving these hardy
boarders the reception they reserved for all infidels. In an instant the
fighting platform on the prow was become a raging, seething hell of
battle luridly illumined by the ruddy glow from the lights aboard the
Silver Heron. Foremost among those who had leapt down had been Lionel
and Sir John Killigrew. Foremost among those to receive them had been
Jasper Leigh, who had passed his sword through Lionel's body even as
Lionel's feet came to rest upon the deck, and before the battle was
A dozen others went down on either side before Sakr-el-Bahr's ringing
voice could quell the fighting, before his command to them to hear him
"Hold there!" he had bellowed to his sea-hawks, using the lingua franca.
"Back, and leave this to me. I will rid you of these foes." Then in
English he had summoned his countrymen also to desist. "Sir John
Killigrew!" he called in a loud voice. "Hold your hand until you have
heard me! Call your men back and let none others come aboard! Hold
until you have heard me, I say, then wreak your will."
Sir John, perceiving him by the mainmast with Rosamund at his side, and
leaping at the most inevitable conclusion that he meant to threaten her
life, perhaps to destroy her if they continued their advance, flung
himself before his men, to check them.
Thus almost as suddenly as it had been joined the combat paused
"What have you to say, you renegade dog?" Sir John demanded.
"This, Sir John, that unless you order your men back aboard your ship,
and make oath to desist from this encounter, I'll take you straight down
to hell with us at once. I'll heave this lantern into the powder here,
and we sink and you come down with us held by your own grappling hooks.
Obey me and you shall have all that you have come to seek aboard this
vessel. Mistress Rosamund shall be delivered up to you.
Sir John glowered upon him a moment from the poop, considering. Then--
"Though not prepared to make terms with you," he announced, "yet I will
accept the conditions you impose, but only provided that I have all
indeed that I am come to seek. There is aboard this galley an infamous
renegade hound whom I am bound by my knightly oath to take and hang. He,
too, must be delivered up to me. His name was Oliver Tressilian."
Instantly, unhesitatingly, came the answer--"Him, too, will I surrender
to you upon your sworn oath that you will then depart and do here no
Rosamund caught her breath, and clutched Sakr-el-Bahr's arm, the arm that
held the lantern.
"Have a care, mistress," he bade her sharply, "or you will destroy us
"Better that!" she answered him.
And then Sir John pledged him his word that upon his own surrender and
that of Rosamund he would withdraw nor offer hurt to any there.
Sakr-el-Bahr turned to his waiting corsairs, and briefly told them what
the terms he had made.
He called upon Asad to pledge his word that these terms would be
respected, and no blood shed on his behalf, and Asad answered him,
voicing the anger of all against him for his betrayal.
"Since he wants thee that he may hang thee, he may have thee and so spare
us the trouble, for 'tis no less than thy treachery deserves from us."
"Thus, then, I surrender," he announced to Sir John, and flung the
One voice only was raised in his defence, and that voice was Rosamund's.
But even that voice failed, conquered by weary nature. This last blow
following upon all that lately she had endured bereft her of all
strength. Half swooning she collapsed against Sakr-el-Bahr even as Sir
John and a handful of his followers leapt down to deliver her and make
fast their prisoner.
The corsairs stood looking on in silence; the loyalty to their great
captain, which would have made them spend their last drop of blood in his
defence, was quenched by his own act of treachery which had brought the
English ship upon them. Yet when they saw him pinioned and hoisted to
the deck of the Silver Heron, there was a sudden momentary reaction in
their ranks. Scimitars were waved aloft, and cries of menace burst
forth. If he had betrayed them, yet he had so contrived that they should
not suffer by that betrayal. And that was worthy of the Sakr-el-Bahr
they knew and loved; so worthy that their love and loyalty leapt
full-armed again upon the instant.
But the voice of Asad called upon them to bear in mind what in their name
he had promised, and since the voice of Asad alone might not have
sufficed to quell that sudden spark of revolt, there came down to them
the voice of Sakr-el-Bahr himself issuing his last command.
"Remember and respect the terms I have made for you! Mektub! May Allah
guard and prosper you!"
A wail was his reply, and with that wail ringing in his ears to assure
him that he did not pass unloved, he was hurried below to prepare him for
The ropes of the grapnels were cut, and slowly the galleon passed away
into the night, leaving the galley to replace what slaves had been maimed
in the encounter and to head back for Algiers, abandoning the expedition
against the argosy of Spain.
Under the awning upon the poop Asad now sat like a man who has awakened
from an evil dream. He covered his head and wept for one who had been as
a son to him, and whom through his madness he had lost. He cursed all
women, and he cursed destiny; but the bitterest curse of all was for
In the pale dawn they flung the dead overboard and washed the decks, nor
did they notice that a man was missing in token that the English captain,
or else his followers, had not kept strictly to the letter of the bond.
They returned in mourning to Algiers--mourning not for the Spanish argosy
which had been allowed to go her ways unmolested, but for the stoutest
captain that ever bared his scimitar in the service of Islam. The story
of how he came to be delivered up was never clearly told; none dared
clearly tell it, for none who had participated in the deed but took shame
in it thereafter, however clear it might be that Sakr-el-Bahr had brought
it all upon himself. But, at least, it was understood that he had not
fallen in battle, and hence it was assumed that he was still alive. Upon
that presumption there was built up a sort of legend that he would one
day come back; and redeemed captives returning a half-century later
related how in Algiers to that day the coming of Sakr-el-Bahr was still
confidently expected and looked for by all true Muslimeen.
THE HEATHEN CREED
Sakr-el-Bahr was shut up in a black hole in the forecastle of the Silver
Heron to await the dawn and to spend the time in making his soul. No
words had passed between him and Sir John since his surrender. With
wrists pinioned behind him, he had been hoisted aboard the English ship,
and in the waist of her he had stood for a moment face to face with an
old acquaintance--our chronicler, Lord Henry Goade. I imagine the florid
countenance of the Queen's Lieutenant wearing a preternaturally grave
expression, his eyes forbidding as they rested upon the renegade. I
know--from Lord Henry's own pen--that no word had passed between them
during those brief moments before Sakr-el-Bahr was hurried away by his
guards to be flung into those dark, cramped quarters reeking of tar and
For a long hour he lay where he had fallen, believing himself alone; and
time and place would no doubt conduce to philosophical reflection upon
his condition. I like to think that he found that when all was
considered, he had little with which to reproach himself. If he had done
evil he had made ample amends. It can scarcely be pretended that he had
betrayed those loyal Muslimeen followers of his, or, if it is, at least
it must be added that he himself had paid the price of that betrayal.
Rosamund was safe, Lionel would meet the justice due to him, and as for
himself, being as good as dead already, he was worth little thought. He
must have derived some measure of content from the reflection that he was
spending his life to the very best advantage. Ruined it had been long
since. True, but for his ill-starred expedition of vengeance he might
long have continued to wage war as a corsair, might even have risen to
the proud Muslim eminence of the Bashalik of Algiers and become a
feudatory prince of the Grand Turk. But for one who was born a Christian
gentleman that would have been an unworthy way to have ended his days.
The present was the better course.
A faint rustle in the impenetrable blackness of his prison turned the
current of his thoughts. A rat, he thought, and drew himself to a
sitting attitude, and beat his slippered heels upon the ground to drive
away the loathly creature. Instead, a voice challenged him out of the
It startled him for a moment, in his complete assurance that he had been
"Who's there?" the voice repeated, querulously to add: "What black hell
be this? Where am I?"
And now he recognized the voice for Jasper Leigh's, and marvelled how
that latest of his recruits to the ranks of Mohammed should be sharing
this prison with him.
"Faith," said he, "you're in the forecastle of the Silver Heron; though
how you come here is more than I can answer."
"Who are ye?" the voice asked.
"I have been known in Barbary as Sakr-el-Bahr."
"I suppose that is what they will call me now. It is as well perhaps
that I am to be buried at sea, else it might plague these Christian
gentlemen what legend to inscribe upon my headstone. But you--how come
you hither? My bargain with Sir John was that none should be molested,
and I cannot think Sir John would be forsworn."
"As to that I know nothing, since I did not even know where I was
bestowed until ye informed me. I was knocked senseless in the fight,
after I had put my bilbo through your comely brother. That is the sum of
Sir Oliver caught his breath. "What do you say? You killed Lionel?"
"I believe so," was the cool answer. "At least I sent a couple of feet
of steel through him--'twas in the press of the fight when first the
English dropped aboard the galley; Master Lionel was in the van--the last
place in which I should have looked to see him."
There fell a long silence. At length Sir Oliver spoke in a small voice.
"Not a doubt but you gave him no more than he was seeking. You are
right, Master Leigh; the van was the last place in which to look for him,
unless he came deliberately to seek steel that he might escape a rope.
Best so, no doubt. Best so! God rest him!"
"Do you believe in God?" asked the sinful skipper on an anxious note.
"No doubt they took you because of that," Sir Oliver pursued, as if
communing with himself. "Being in ignorance perhaps of his deserts,
deeming him a saint and martyr, they resolved to avenge him upon you, and
dragged you hither for that purpose." He sighed. "Well, well, Master
Leigh, I make no doubt that knowing yourself for a rascal you have all
your life been preparing your neck for a noose; so this will come as no
surprise to you."
The skipper stirred uneasily, and groaned. "Lord, how my head aches!" he
"They've a sure remedy for that," Sir Oliver comforted him. "And you'll
swing in better company than you deserve, for I am to be hanged in the
morn-ing too. You've earned it as fully as have I, Master Leigh. Yet I
am sorry for you--sorry you should suffer where I had not so intended."
Master Leigh sucked in a shuddering breath, and was silent for a while.
Then he repeated an earlier question.
"Do you believe in God, Sir Oliver?"
"There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet," was the answer,
and from his tone Master Leigh could not be sure that he did not mock.
"That's a heathen creed," said he in fear and loathing.
"Nay, now; it's a creed by which men live. They perform as they preach,
which is more than can be said of any Christians I have ever met."
"How can you talk so upon the eve of death?" cried Leigh in protest.
"Faith," said Sir Oliver, "it's considered the season of truth above all
"Then ye don't believe in God?"
"On the contrary, I do."
"But not in the real God?" the skipper insisted.
"There can be no God but the real God--it matters little what men call
"Then if ye believe, are ye not afraid?"
"Of hell, damnation, and eternal fire," roared the skipper, voicing his
own belated terrors.
"I have but fulfilled the destiny which in His Omniscience He marked out
for me," replied Sir Oliver. "My life hath been as He designed it, since
naught may exist or happen save by His Will. Shall I then fear damnation
for having been as God fashioned me?"
"'Tis the heathen Muslim creed!" Master Leigh protested.
"'Tis a comforting one," said Sir Oliver, "and it should comfort such a
sinner as thou."
But Master Leigh refused to be comforted. "Oh!" he groaned miserably.
"I would that I did not believe in God!"
"Your disbelief could no more abolish Him than can your fear create Him,"
replied Sir Oliver. "But your mood being what it is, were it not best
"Will not you pray with me?" quoth that rascal in his sudden fear of the
"I shall do better," said Sir Oliver at last. "I shall pray for you--to
Sir John Killigrew, that your life be spared."
"Sure he'll never heed you!" said Master Leigh with a catch in his
"He shall. His honour is concerned in it. The terms of my surrender
were that none else aboard the galley should suffer any hurt."
"But I killed Master Lionel."
"True--but that was in the scrimmage that preceded my making terms. Sir
John pledged me his word, and Sir John will keep to it when I have made
it clear to him that honour demands it."
A great burden was lifted from the skipper's mind--that great shadow of
the fear of death that had overhung him. With it, it is greatly to be
feared that his desperate penitence also departed. At least he talked no
more of damnation, nor took any further thought for Sir Oliver's opinions
and beliefs concerning the hereafter. He may rightly have supposed that
Sir Oliver's creed was Sir Oliver's affair, and that should it happen to
be wrong he was scarcely himself a qualified person to correct it. As
for himself, the making of his soul could wait until another day, when
the necessity for it should be more imminent.
Upon that he lay down and attempted to compose himself to sleep, though
the pain in his head proved a difficulty. Finding slumber impossible
after a while he would have talked again; but by that time his
companion's regular breathing warned him that Sir Oliver had fallen
asleep during the silence.
Now this surprised and shocked the skipper. He was utterly at a loss to
understand how one who had lived Sir Oliver's life, been a renegade and a
heathen, should be able to sleep tranquilly in the knowledge that at dawn
he was to hang. His belated Christian zeal prompted him to rouse the
sleeper and to urge him to spend the little time that yet remained him in
making his peace with God. Humane compassion on the other hand suggested
to him that he had best leave him in the peace of that oblivion.
Considering matters he was profoundly touched to reflect that in such a
season Sir Oliver could have found room in his mind to think of him and
his fate and to undertake to contrive that he should be saved from the
rope. He was the more touched when he bethought him of the extent to
which he had himself been responsible for all that happened to Sir
Oliver. Out of the consideration of heroism, a certain heroism came to
be begotten in him, and he fell to pondering how in his turn he might
perhaps serve Sir Oliver by a frank confession of all that he knew of the
influences that had gone to make Sir Oliver what he was. This resolve
uplifted him, and oddly enough it uplifted him all the more when he
reflected that perhaps he would be jeopardizing his own neck by the
confession upon which he had determined.
So through that endless night he sat, nursing his aching head, and
enheartened by the first purpose he had ever conceived of a truly good
and altruistic deed. Yet fate it seemed was bent upon frustrating that
purpose of his. For when at dawn they came to hale Sir Oliver to his
doom, they paid no heed to Jasper Leigh's demands that he, too, should be
taken before Sir John.
"Thee bean't included in our orders," said a seaman shortly.
"Maybe not," retorted Master Leigh, "because Sir John little knows what
it is in my power to tell him. Take me before him, I say, that he may
hear from me the truth of certain matters ere it be too late."
"Be still," the seaman bade him, and struck him heavily across the face,
so that he reeled and collapsed into a corner. "Thee turn will come
soon. Just now our business be with this other heathen."
"Naught that you can say would avail," Sir Oliver assured him quietly.
"But I thank you for the thought that marks you for my friend. My hands
are bound, Jasper. Were it otherwise I would beg leave to clasp your
own. Fare you well!"
Sir Oliver was led out into the golden sunlight which almost blinded him
after his long confinement in that dark hole. They were, he gathered, to
conduct him to the cabin where a short mockery of a trial was to be held.
But in the waist their progress was arrested by an officer, who bade them
Sir Oliver sat down upon a coil of rope, his guard about him, an object
of curious inspection to the rude seamen. They thronged the forecastle
and the hatchways to stare at this formidable corsair who once had been a
Cornish gentleman and who had become a renegade Muslim and a terror to
Truth to tell, the sometime Cornish gentleman was difficult to discern in
him as he sat there still wearing the caftan of cloth of silver over his
white tunic and a turban of the same material swathed about his steel
headpiece that ended in a spike. Idly he swung his brown sinewy legs,
naked from knee to ankle, with the inscrutable calm of the fatalist upon
his swarthy hawk face with its light agate eyes and black forked beard;
and those callous seamen who had assembled there to jeer and mock him
were stricken silent by the intrepidity and stoicism of his bearing in
the face of death.
If the delay chafed him, he gave no outward sign of it. If his hard,
light eyes glanced hither and thither it was upon no idle quest. He was
seeking Rosamund, hoping for a last sight of her before they launched him
upon his last dread voyage.
But Rosamund was not to be seen. She was in the cabin at the time. She
had been there for this hour past, and it was to her that the present
delay was due.
In the absence of any woman into whose care they might entrust her, Lord
Henry, Sir John, and Master Tobias, the ship's surgeon, had amongst them
tended Rosamund as best they could when numbed and half-dazed she was
brought aboard the Silver Heron.
Master Tobias had applied such rude restoratives as he commanded, and
having made her as comfortable as possible upon a couch in the spacious
cabin astern, he had suggested that she should be allowed the rest of
which she appeared so sorely to stand in need. He had ushered out the
commander and the Queen's Lieutenant, and himself had gone below to a
still more urgent case that was demanding his attention--that of Lionel
Tressilian, who had been brought limp and unconscious from the galeasse
together with some four other wounded members of the Silver Heron's crew.
At dawn Sir John had come below, seeking news of his wounded friend. He
found the surgeon kneeling over Lionel.
As he entered, Master Tobias turned aside, rinsed his hands in a metal
basin placed upon the floor, and rose wiping them on a napkin.
"I can do no more, Sir John," he muttered in a desponding voice. "He is
"Dead, d'ye mean?" cried Sir John, a catch in his voice.
The surgeon tossed aside the napkin, and slowly drew down the upturned
sleeves of his black doublet. "All but dead," he answered. "The wonder
is that any spark of life should still linger in a body with that hole in
it. He is bleeding inwardly, and his pulse is steadily weakening. It
must continue so until imperceptibly he passes away. You may count him
dead already, Sir John." He paused. "A merciful, painless end," he
added, and sighed perfunctorily, his pale shaven face decently grave, for
all that such scenes as these were commonplaces in his life. "Of the
other four," he continued, "Blair is dead; the other three should all
But Sir John gave little heed to the matter of those others. His grief
and dismay at this quenching of all hope for his friend precluded any
other consideration at the moment.
"And he will not even recover consciousness?" he asked insisting,
although already he had been answered.
"As I have said, you may count him dead already, Sir John. My skill can
do nothing for him."
Sir John's head drooped, his countenance drawn and grave. "Nor can my
justice," he added gloomily. "Though it avenge him, it cannot give me
back my friend." He looked at the surgeon. "Vengeance, sir, is the
hollowest of all the mockeries that go to make up life."
"Your task, Sir John," replied the surgeon, "is one of justice, not
"A quibble, when all is said." He stepped to Lionel's side, and looked
down at the pale handsome face over which the dark shadows of death were
already creeping. "If he would but speak in the interests of this
justice that is to do! If we might but have the evidence of his own
words, lest I should ever be asked to justify the hanging of Oliver
"Surely, sir," the surgeon ventured, "there can be no such question ever.
Mistress Rosamund's word alone should suffice, if indeed so much as that
even were required."
"Ay! His offenses against God and man are too notorious to leave grounds
upon which any should ever question my right to deal with him out of
There was a tap at the door and Sir John's own body servant entered with
the announcement that Mistress Rosamund was asking urgently to see him.
"She will be impatient for news of him," Sir John concluded, and he
groaned. "My God! How am I to tell her? To crush her in the very hour
of her deliverance with such news as this! Was ever irony so cruel?" He
turned, and stepped heavily to the door. There he paused. "You will
remain by him to the end?" he bade the surgeon interrogatively.
Master Tobias bowed. "Of course, Sir John." And he added, "'Twill not
Sir John looked across at Lionel again--a glance of valediction. "God
rest him!" he said hoarsely, and passed out.
In the waist he paused a moment, turned to a knot of lounging seamen, and
bade them throw a halter over the yard-arm, and hale the renegade Oliver
Tressilian from his prison. Then with slow heavy step and heavier heart
he went up the companion to the vessel's castellated poop.
The sun, new risen in a faint golden haze, shone over a sea faintly
rippled by the fresh clean winds of dawn to which their every stitch of
canvas was now spread. Away on the larboard quarter, a faint cloudy
outline, was the coast of Spain.
Sir John's long sallow face was preternaturally grave when he entered the
cabin, where Rosamund awaited him. He bowed to her with a grave
courtesy, doffing his hat and casting it upon a chair. The last five
years had brought some strands of white into his thick black hair, and at
the temples in particular it showed very grey, giving him an appearance
of age to which the deep lines in his brow contributed.
He advanced towards her, as she rose to receive him. "Rosamund, my
dear!" he said gently, and took both her hands. He looked with eyes of
sorrow and concern into her white, agitated face.
"Are you sufficiently rested, child?"
"Rested?" she echoed on a note of wonder that he should suppose it.
"Poor lamb, poor lamb!" he murmured, as a mother might have done, and
drew her towards him, stroking that gleaming auburn head. "We'll speed
us back to England with every stitch of canvas spread. Take heart then,
But she broke in impetuously, drawing away from him as she spoke, and his
heart sank with foreboding of the thing she was about to inquire.
"I overheard a sailor just now saying to another that it is your intent
to hang Sir Oliver Tressilian out of hand--this morning."
He misunderstood her utterly. "Be comforted," he said. "My justice
shall be swift; my vengeance sure. The yard-arm is charged already with
the rope on which he shall leap to his eternal punishment."
She caught her breath, and set a hand upon her bosom as if to repress its
"And upon what grounds," she asked him with an air of challenge, squarely
facing him, "do you intend to do this thing?"
"Upon what grounds?" he faltered. He stared and frowned, bewildered by
her question and its tone. "Upon what grounds?" he repeated, foolishly
almost in the intensity of his amazement. Then he considered her more
closely, and the wildness of her eyes bore to him slowly an explanation
of words that at first had seemed beyond explaining.
"I see!" he said in a voice of infinite pity; for the conviction to which
he had leapt was that her poor wits were all astray after the horrors
through which she had lately travelled. "You must rest," he said gently,
"and give no thought to such matters as these. Leave them to me, and be
very sure that I shall avenge you as is due."
"Sir John, you mistake me, I think. I do not desire that you avenge me.
I have asked you upon what grounds you intend to do this thing, and you
have not answered me."
In increasing amazement he continued to stare. He had been wrong, then.
She was quite sane and mistress of her wits. And yet instead of the fond
inquiries concerning Lionel which he had been dreading came this amazing
questioning of his grounds to hang his prisoner.
"Need I state to you--of all living folk--the offences which that dastard
has committed?" he asked, expressing thus the very question that he was
"You need to tell me," she answered, "by what right you constitute
yourself his judge and executioner; by what right you send him to his
death in this peremptory fashion, without trial." Her manner was as
stern as if she were invested with all the authority of a judge.
"But you," he faltered in his ever-growing bewilderment, "you, Rosamund,
against whom he has offended so grievously, surely you should be the last
to ask me such a question! Why, it is my intention to proceed with him
as is the manner of the sea with all knaves taken as Oliver Tressilian
was taken. If your mood be merciful towards him--which as God lives, I
can scarce conceive--consider that this is the greatest mercy he can look
"You speak of mercy and vengeance in a breath, Sir John." She was
growing calm, her agitation was quieting and a grim sternness was
He made a gesture of impatience. "What good purpose could it serve to
take him to England?" he demanded. "There he must stand his trial, and
the issue is foregone. It were unnecessarily to torture him."
"The issue may be none so foregone as you suppose," she replied. "And
that trial is his right."
Sir John took a turn in the cabin, his wits all confused. It was
preposterous that he should stand and argue upon such a matter with
Rosamund of all people, and yet she was compelling him to it against his
every inclination, against common sense itself.
"If he so urges it, we'll not deny him," he said at last, deeming it best
to humour her. "We'll take him back to England if he demands it, and let
him stand his trial there. But Oliver Tressilian must realize too well
what is in store for him to make any such demand." He passed before her,
and held out his hands in entreaty. "Come, Rosamund, my dear! You are
"I am indeed distraught, Sir John," she answered, and took the hands that
he extended. "Oh, have pity!" she cried with a sudden change to utter
intercession. "I implore you to have pity!"
"What pity can I show you, child? You have but to name...."
"'Tis not pity for me, but pity for him that I am beseeching of you."
"For him?" he cried, frowning again.
"For Oliver Tressilian."
He dropped her hands and stood away. "God's light!" he swore. "You sue
for pity for Oliver Tressilian, for that renegade, that incarnate devil?
Oh, you are mad!" he stormed. "Mad!" and he flung away from her,
whirling his arms.
"I love him," she said simply.
That answer smote him instantly still. Under the shock of it he just
stood and stared at her again, his jaw fallen.
"You love him!" he said at last below his breath. "You love him! You
love a man who is a pirate, a renegade, the abductor of yourself and of
Lionel, the man who murdered your brother!"
"He did not." She was fierce in her denial of it. "I have learnt the
truth of that matter."
"From his lips, I suppose?" said Sir John, and he was unable to repress a
sneer. "And you believed him?"
"Had I not believed him I should not have married him."
"Married him?" Sudden horror came now to temper his bewilderment. Was
there to be no end to these astounding revelations? Had they reached the
climax yet, he wondered, or was there still more to come? "You married
that infamous villain?" he asked, and his voice was expressionless.
"I did--in Algiers on the night we landed there." He stood gaping at her
whilst a man might count to a dozen, and then abruptly he exploded. "It
is enough!" he roared, shaking a clenched fist at the low ceiling of the
cabin. "It is enough, as God's my Witness. If there were no other
reason to hang him, that would be reason and to spare. You may look to
me to make an end of this infamous marriage within the hour."
"Ah, if you will but listen to me!" she pleaded.
"Listen to you?" He paused by the door to which he had stepped in his
fury, intent upon giving the word that there and then should make an end,
and summoning Oliver Tressilian before him, announce his fate to him and
see it executed on the spot. "Listen to you?" he repeated, scorn and
anger blending in his voice. "I have heard more than enough already!"
It was the Killigrew way, Lord Henry Goade assures us, pausing here at
long length for one of those digressions into the history of families
whose members chance to impinge upon his chronicle. "They were," he
says, "ever an impetuous, short-reasoning folk, honest and upright enough
so far as their judgment carried them, but hampered by a lack of
penetration in that judgment."
Sir John, as much in his earlier commerce with the Tressilians as in this
pregnant hour, certainly appears to justify his lordship of that
criticism. There were a score of questions a man of perspicuity would
not have asked, not one of which appears to have occurred to the knight
of Arwenack. If anything arrested him upon the cabin's threshold,
delayed him in the execution of the thing he had resolved upon, no doubt
it was sheer curiosity as to what further extravagances Rosamund might
yet have it in her mind to utter.
"This man has suffered," she told him, and was not put off by the hard
laugh with which he mocked that statement. "God alone knows what he has
suffered in body and in soul for sins which he never committed. Much of
that suffering came to him through me. I know to-day that he did not
murder Peter. I know that but for a disloyal act of mine he would be in
a position incontestably to prove it without the aid of any man. I know
that he was carried off, kidnapped before ever he could clear himself of
the accusation, and that as a consequence no life remained him but the
life of a renegade which he chose. Mine was the chief fault. And I must
make amends. Spare him to me! If you love me...."
But he had heard enough. His sallow face was flushed to a flaming
"Not another word!" he blazed at her. "It is because I do love you--love
and pity you from my heart--that I will not listen. It seems I must save
you not only from that knave, but from yourself. I were false to my duty
by you, false to your dead father and murdered brother else. Anon, you
shall thank me, Rosamund." And again he turned to depart.
"Thank you?" she cried in a ringing voice. "I shall curse you. All my
life I shall loathe and hate you, holding you in horror for a murderer if
you do this thing. You fool! Can you not see? You fool!"
He recoiled. Being a man of position and importance, quick, fearless,
and vindictive of temperament--and also, it would seem, extremely
fortunate--it had never happened to him in all his life to be so
uncompromisingly and frankly judged. She was by no means the first to
account him a fool, but she was certainly the first to call him one to
his face; and whilst to the general it might have proved her extreme
sanity, to him it was no more than the culminating proof of her mental
"Pish!" he said, between anger and pity, "you are mad, stark mad! Your
mind's unhinged, your vision's all distorted. This fiend incarnate is
become a poor victim of the evil of others; and I am become a murderer in
your sight--a murderer and a fool. God's Life! Bah! Anon when you are
rested, when you are restored, I pray that things may once again assume
their proper aspect."
He turned, all aquiver still with indignation, and was barely in time to
avoid being struck by the door which opened suddenly from without.
Lord Henry Goade, dressed--as he tells us--entirely in black, and with
his gold chain of office--an ominous sign could they have read it--upon
his broad chest, stood in the doorway, silhouetted sharply against the
flood of morning sunlight at his back. His benign face would, no doubt,
be extremely grave to match the suit he had put on, but its expression
will have lightened somewhat when his glance fell upon Rosamund standing
there by the table's edge.
"I was overjoyed," he writes, "to find her so far recovered, and seeming
so much herself again, and I expressed my satisfaction."
"She were better abed," snapped Sir John, two hectic spots burning still
in his sallow cheeks. "She is distempered, quite."
"Sir John is mistaken, my lord," was her calm assurance, "I am very far
from suffering as he conceives."
"I rejoice therein, my dear," said his lordship, and I imagine his
questing eyes speeding from one to the other of them, and marking the
evidences of Sir John's temper, wondering what could have passed. "It
happens," he added sombrely, "that we may require your testimony in this
grave matter that is toward." He turned to Sir John. "I have bidden
them bring up the prisoner for sentence. Is the ordeal too much for you,
"Indeed, no, my lord," she replied readily. "I welcome it." And threw
back her head as one who braces herself for a trial of endurance.
"No, no," cut in Sir John, protesting fiercely. "Do not heed her, Harry.
"Considering," she interrupted, "that the chief count against the
prisoner must concern his...his dealings with myself, surely the matter
is one upon which I should be heard."
"Surely, indeed," Lord Henry agreed, a little bewildered, he confesses,
"always provided you are certain it will not overtax your endurance and
distress you overmuch. We could perhaps dispense with your testimony."
"In that, my lord, I assure you that you are mistaken," she answered.
"You cannot dispense with it."
"Be it so, then," said Sir John grimly, and he strode back to the table,
prepared to take his place there.
Lord Henry's twinkling blue eyes were still considering Rosamund somewhat
searchingly, his fingers tugging thoughtfully at his short tuft of
ashen-coloured beard. Then he turned to the door. "Come in, gentlemen,"
he said, "and bid them bring up the prisoner."
Steps clanked upon the deck, and three of Sir John's officers made their
appearance to complete the court that was to sit in judgment upon the
renegade corsair, a judgment whose issue was foregone.
Chairs were set at the long brown table of massive oak, and the officers
sat down, facing the open door and the blaze of sunshine on the
poop-deck, their backs to the other door and the horn windows which
opened upon the stern-gallery. The middle place was assumed by Lord
Henry Goade by virtue of his office of Queen's Lieutenant, and the reason
for his chain of office became now apparent. He was to preside over this
summary court. On his right sat Sir John Killigrew, and beyond him an
officer named Youldon. The other two, whose names have not survived,
occupied his lordship's left.
A chair had been set for Rosamund at the table's extreme right and across
the head of it, so as to detach her from the judicial bench. She sat
there now, her elbows on the polished board, her face resting in her
half-clenched hands, her eyes scrutinizing the five gentlemen who formed
Steps rang on the companion, and a shadow fell athwart the sunlight
beyond the open door. From the vessel's waist came a murmur of voices
and a laugh. Then Sir Oliver appeared in the doorway guarded by two
fighting seamen in corselet and morion with drawn swords.
He paused an instant in the doorway, and his eyelids flickered as if he had received a shock when his glance alighted upon Rosamund. Then under the suasion of his guards he entered, and stood forward, his wrists still pinioned behind him, slightly in advance of the two soldiers.
He nodded perfunctorily to the court, his face entirely calm.
"A fine morning, sirs," said he.
The five considered him in silence, but Lord Henry's glance, as it rested
upon the corsair's Muslim garb, was eloquent of the scorn which he tells
us filled his heart.
"You are no doubt aware, sir," said Sir John after a long pause, "of the
purpose for which you have been brought hither."
"Scarcely," said the prisoner. "But I have no doubt whatever of the
purpose for which I shall presently be taken hence. "However," he
continued, cool and critical, "I can guess from your judicial attitudes
the superfluous mockery that you intend. If it will afford you
entertainment, faith, I do not grudge indulging you. I would observe
only that it might be considerate in you to spare Mistress Rosamund the
pain and weariness of the business that is before you.
"Mistress Rosamund herself desired to be present," said Sir John,
"Perhaps," said Sir Oliver, "she does not realize...."
"I have made it abundantly plain to her," Sir John interrupted, almost
The prisoner looked at her as if in surprise, his brows knit. Then with
a shrug he turned to his judges again.
"In that case," said he, "there's no more to be said. But before you
proceed, there is another matter upon which I desire an understanding.
"The terms of my surrender were that all others should be permitted to go
free. You will remember, Sir John, that you pledged me your knightly
word for that. Yet I find aboard here one who was lately with me upon my
galeasse--a sometime English seaman, named Jasper Leigh, whom you hold a
"He killed Master Lionel Tressilian," said Sir John coldly
"That may be, Sir John. But the blow was delivered before I made my
terms with you, and you cannot violate these terms without hurt to your
"D'ye talk of honour, sir?" said Lord Henry.
"Of Sir John's honour, my lord," said the prisoner, with mock humility.
"You are here, sir, to take your trial," Sir John reminded him.
"So I had supposed. It is a privilege for which you agreed to pay a
certain price, and now it seems you have been guilty of filching
something back. It seems so, I say. For I cannot think but that the
arrest was inadvertently effected, and that it will suffice that I draw
your attention to the matter of Master Leigh's detention."
Sir John considered the table. It was beyond question that he was in
honour bound to enlarge Master Leigh, whatever the fellow might have
done; and, indeed, his arrest had been made without Sir John's knowledge
until after the event.
"What am I do with him?" he growled sullenly.
"That is for yourself to decide, Sir John. But I can tell you what you
may not do with him. You may not keep him a prisoner, or carry him to
England or injure him in any way. Since his arrest was a pure error, as
I gather, you must repair that error as best you can. I am satisfied
that you will do so, and need say no more. Your servant, sirs," he added
to intimate that he was now entirely at their disposal, and he stood
There was a slight pause, and then Lord Henry, his face inscrutable, his
glance hostile and cold, addressed the prisoner.
"We have had you brought hither to afford you an opportunity of urging
any reasons why we should not hang you out of hand, as is our right."
Sir Oliver looked at him in almost amused surprise. "Faith!" he said at
length. "It was never my habit to waste breath."
"I doubt you do not rightly apprehend me, sir," returned his lordship,
and his voice was soft and silken as became his judicial position.
"Should you demand a formal trial, we will convey you to England that you
may have it."
"But lest you should build unduly upon that," cut in Sir John fiercely,
"let me warn you that as the offences for which you are to suffer were
chiefly committed within Lord Henry Goade's own jurisdiction, your trial
will take place in Cornwall, where Lord Henry has the honour to be Her
Majesty's Lieutenant and dispenser of justice."
"Her Majesty is to be congratulated," said Sir Oliver elaborately.
"It is for you to choose, sir," Sir John ran on, "whether you will be
hanged on sea or land."
"My only possible objection would be to being hanged in the air. But
you're not likely to heed that," was the flippant answer.
Lord Henry leaned forward again. "Let me beg you, sir, in your own
interests to be serious," he admonished the prisoner.
"I confess the occasion, my lord. For if you are to sit in judgment upon
my piracy, I could not desire a more experienced judge of the matter on
sea or land than Sir John Killigrew."
"I am glad to deserve your approval," Sir John replied tartly.
"Piracy," he added, "is but the least of the counts against you."
Sir Oliver's brows went up, and he stared at the row of solemn faces.
"As God's my life, then, your other counts must needs be sound--or else,
if there be any justice in your methods, you are like to be disappointed
of your hopes of seeing me swing. Proceed, sirs, to the other counts. I
vow you become more interesting than I could have hoped."
"Can you deny the piracy?" quoth Lord Henry.
"Deny it? No. But I deny your jurisdiction in the matter, or that of
any English court, since I have committed no piracy in English waters."
Lord Henry admits that the answer silenced and bewildered him, being
utterly unexpected. Yet what the prisoner urged was a truth so obvious
that it was difficult to apprehend how his lordship had come to overlook
it. I rather fear that despite his judicial office, jurisprudence was
not a strong point with his lordship. But Sir John, less perspicuous or
less scrupulous in the matter, had his retort ready.
"Did you not come to Arwenack and forcibly carry off thence...."
"Nay, now, nay, now," the corsair interrupted, good-humouredly. "Go back
to school, Sir John, to learn that abduction is not piracy."
"Call it abduction, if you will," Sir John admitted.
"Not if I will, Sir John. We'll call it what it is, if you please."
"You are trifling, sir. But we shall mend that presently," and Sir John
banged the table with his fist, his face flushing slightly in anger.
(Lord Henry very properly deplores this show of heat at such a time.)
"You cannot pretend to be ignorant," Sir John continued, "that abduction
is punishable by death under the law of England." He turned to his
fellow-judges. "We will then, sirs, with your concurrence, say no more
of the piracy."
"Faith," said Lord Henry in his gentle tones, "in justice we cannot."
And he shrugged the matter aside. "The prisoner is right in what he
claims. We have no jurisdiction in that matter, seeing that he committed
no piracy in English waters, nor--so far as our knowledge goes--against
any vessel sailing under the English flag."
Rosamund stirred. Slowly she took her elbows from the table, and folded
her arms resting them upon the edge of it. Thus leaning forward she
listened now with an odd brightness in her eye, a slight flush in her
cheeks reflecting some odd excitement called into life by Lord Henry's
admission--an admission which sensibly whittled down the charges against
Sir Oliver, watching her almost furtively, noted this and marvelled, even
as he marvelled at her general composure. It was in vain that he sought
to guess what might be her attitude of mind towards himself now that she
was safe again among friends and protectors.
But Sir John, intent only upon the business ahead, plunged angrily on.
"Be it so," he admitted impatiently. "We will deal with him upon the
counts of abduction and murder. Have you anything to say?"
"Nothing that would be like to weigh with you," replied Sir Oliver. And
then with a sudden change from his slightly derisive manner to one that
was charged with passion: "Let us make an end of this comedy," he cried,
"of this pretence of judicial proceedings. Hang me, and have done, or
set me to walk the plank. Play the pirate, for that is a trade you
understand. But a' God's name don't disgrace the Queen's commission by
playing the judge."
Sir John leapt to his feet, his face aflame. "Now, by Heaven, you
But Lord Henry checked him, placing a restraining hand upon his sleeve,
and forcing him gently back into his seat. Himself he now addressed the
"Sir, your words are unworthy one who, whatever his crimes, has earned
the repute of being a sturdy, valiant fighter. Your deeds are so
notorious--particularly that which caused you to flee from England and
take to roving, and that of your reappearance at Arwenack and the
abduction of which you were then guilty--that your sentence in an English
court is a matter foregone beyond all possible doubt. Nevertheless, it
shall be yours, as I have said, for the asking.
"Yet," he added, and his voice was lowered and very earnest, "were I your
friend, Sir Oliver, I would advise you that you rather choose to be dealt
with in the summary fashion of the sea."
"Sirs," replied Sir Oliver, "your right to hang me I have not disputed,
nor do I. I have no more to say."
"But I have."
Thus Rosamund at last, startling the court with her crisp, sharp
utterance. All turned to look at her as she rose, and stood tall and
compelling at the table's end.
"Rosamund!" cried Sir John, and rose in his turn. "Let me implore
She waved him peremptorily, almost contemptuously, into silence.
"Since in this matter of the abduction with which Sir Oliver is charged,"
she said, "I am the person said to have been abducted, it were perhaps
well that before going further in this matter you should hear what I may
hereafter have to say in an English court."
Sir John shrugged, and sat down again. She would have her way, he
realized; just as he knew that its only result could be to waste their
time and protract the agony of the doomed man.
Lord Henry turned to her, his manner full of deference. "Since the
prisoner has not denied the charge, and since wisely he refrains from
demanding to be taken to trial, we need not harass you, Mistress
Rosamund. Nor will you be called upon to say anything in an English
"There you are at fault, my lord," she answered, her voice very level.
"I shall be called upon to say something when I impeach you all for
murder upon the high seas, as impeach you I shall if you persist in your
"Rosamund!" cried Oliver in his sudden amazement--and it was a cry of joy
She looked at him, and smiled--a smile full of courage and friendliness
and something more, a smile for which he considered that his impending
hanging was but a little price to pay. Then she turned again to that
court, into which her words had flung a sudden consternation.
"Since he disdains to deny the accusation, I must deny it for him," she
informed them. "He did not abduct me, sirs, as is alleged. I love
Oliver Tressilian. I am of full age and mistress of my actions, and I
went willingly with him to Algiers where I became his wife."
Had she flung a bomb amongst them she could hardly have made a greater
disorder of their wits. They sat back, and stared at her with blank
faces, muttering incoherencies.
"His...his wife?" babbled Lord Henry. "You became his...."
And then Sir John cut in fiercely. "A lie! A lie to save that foul
Rosamund leaned towards him, and her smile was almost a sneer. "Your
wits were ever sluggish, Sir John," she said. "Else you would not need
reminding that I could have no object in lying to save him if he had done
me the wrong that is imputed to him." Then she looked at the others. "I
think, sirs, that in this matter my word will outweigh Sir John's or any
man's in any court of justice."
"Faith, that's true enough!" ejaculated the bewildered Lord Henry. "A
moment, Killigrew!" And again he stilled the impetuous Sir John. He
looked at Sir Oliver, who in truth was very far from being the least
bewildered in that company. "What do you say to that, sir?" he asked.
"To that?" echoed the almost speechless corsair. "What is there left to
say?" he evaded.
"'Tis all false," cried Sir John again. "We were witnesses of the
event--you and I, Harry--and we saw...."
"You saw, Rosamund interrupted. "But you did not know what had been
For a moment that silenced them again. They were as men who stand upon
crumbling ground, whose every effort to win to a safer footing but
occasioned a fresh slide of soil. Then Sir John sneered, and made his
"No doubt she will be prepared to swear that her betrothed, Master Lionel
Tressilian, accompanied her willingly upon that elopement."
"No," she answered. "As for Lionel Tressilian he was carried off that he
might expiate his sins--sins which he had fathered upon his brother
there, sins which are the subject of your other count against him."
"Now what can you mean by that?" asked his lordship.
"That the story that Sir Oliver killed my brother is a calumny; that the
murderer was Lionel Tressilian, who, to avoid detection and to complete
his work, caused Sir Oliver to be kidnapped that he might be sold into
"This is too much!" roared Sir John. "She is trifling with us, she makes
white black and black white. She has been bewitched by that crafty
rogue, by Moorish arts that...."
"Wait!" said Lord Henry, raising his hand. "Give me leave." He
confronted her very seriously. "This...this is a grave statement,
mistress. Have you any proof--anything that you conceive to be a proof--
of what you are saying?"
But Sir John was not to be repressed. "'Tis but the lying tale this
villain told her. He has bewitched her, I say. 'Tis plain as the
Sir Oliver laughed outright at that. His mood was growing exultant,
buoyant, and joyous, and this was the first expression of it. "Bewitched
her? You're determined never to lack for a charge. First 'twas piracy,
then abduction and murder, and now 'tis witchcraft!"
"Oh, a moment, pray!" cried Lord Henry, and he confesses to some heat at
this point. "Do you seriously tell us, Mistress Rosamund, that it was
Lionel Tressilian who murdered Peter Godolphin?"
"Seriously?" she echoed, and her lips were twisted in a little smile of
scorn. "I not merely tell it you, I swear it here in the sight of God.
It was Lionel who murdered my brother and it was Lionel who put it about
that the deed was Sir Oliver's. It was said that Sir Oliver had run away
from the consequences of something discovered against him, and I to my
shame believed the public voice. But I have since discovered the
"The truth, do you say, mistress?" cried the impetuous Sir John in a
voice of passionate contempt. "The truth...."
Again his Lordship was forced to intervene.
"Have patience, man," he admonished the knight. "The truth will prevail
in the end, never fear, Killigrew."
"Meanwhile we are wasting time," grumbled Sir John, and on that fell
"Are we further to understand you to say, mistress," Lord Henry resumed,
"that the prisoner's disappearance from Penarrow was due not to flight,
as was supposed, but to his having been trepanned by order of his
"That is the truth as I stand here in the sight of Heaven," she replied
in a voice that rang with sincerity and carried conviction to more than
one of the officers seated at that table. "By that act the murderer
sought not only to save himself from exposure, but to complete his work
by succeeding to the Tressilian estates. Sir Oliver was to have been
sold into slavery to the Moors of Barbary. Instead the vessel upon which
he sailed was captured by Spaniards, and he was sent to the galleys by
the Inquisition. When his galley was captured by Muslim corsairs he took
the only way of escape that offered. He became a corsair and a leader of
corsairs, and then...."
"What else he did we know," Lord Henry interrupted. "And I assure you it
would all weigh very lightly with us or with any court if what else you
say is true."
"It is true. I swear it, my lord," she repeated.
"Ay," he answered, nodding gravely. "But can you prove it?"
"What better proof can I offer you than that I love him, and have married
"Bah!" said Sir John.
"That, mistress," said Lord Henry, his manner extremely gentle, "is proof
that yourself you believe this amazing story. But it is not proof that
the story itself is true. You had it, I suppose," he continued smoothly,
"from Oliver Tressilian himself?"
"That is so; but in Lionel's own presence, and Lionel himself confirmed
it--admitting its truth."
"You dare say that?" cried Sir John, and stared at her in incredulous
anger. "My God! You dare say that?"
"I dare and do," she answered him, giving him back look for look.
Lord Henry sat back in his chair, and tugged gently at his ashen tuft of
beard, his florid face overcast and thoughtful. There was something here
he did not understand at all. "Mistress Rosamund," he said quietly, "let
me exhort you to consider the gravity of your words. You are virtually
accusing one who is no longer able to defend himself; if your story is
established, infamy will rest for ever upon the memory of Lionel
Tressilian. Let me ask you again, and let me entreat you to answer
scrupulously. Did Lionel Tressilian admit the truth of this thing with
which you say that the prisoner charged him?"
"Once more I solemnly swear that what I have spoken is true; that Lionel
Tressilian did in my presence, when charged by Sir Oliver with the murder
of my brother and the kidnapping of himself, admit those charges. Can I
make it any plainer, sirs?"
Lord Henry spread his hands. "After that, Killigrew, I do not think we
can go further in this matter. Sir Oliver must go with us to England,
and there take his trial."
But there was one present--that officer named Youldon--whose wits, it
seems, were of keener temper.
"By your leave, my lord," he now interposed, and he turned to question
the witness. "What was the occasion on which Sir Oliver forced this
admission from his brother?"
Truthfully she answered. "At his house in Algiers on the night he...." She checked suddenly, perceiving then the trap that had been set for her. And the others perceived it also. Sir John leapt into the breach which Youldon had so shrewdly made in her defences.
"Continue, pray," he bade her. "On the night he...."
"On the night we arrived there," she answered desperately, the colour now
receding slowly from her face.
"And that, of course," said Sir John slowly, mockingly almost, "was the
first occasion on which you heard this explanation of Sir Oliver's
"It was," she faltered--perforce.
"So that," insisted Sir John, determined to leave her no loophole
whatsoever, "so that until that night you had naturally continued to
believe Sir Oliver to be the murderer of your brother?"
She hung her head in silence, realizing that the truth could not prevail
here since she had hampered it with a falsehood, which was now being
dragged into the light.
"Answer me!" Sir John commanded.
"There is no need to answer," said Lord Henry slowly, in a voice of pain,
his eyes lowered to the table. "There can, of course, be but one answer.
Mistress Rosamund has told us that he did not abduct her forcibly; that
she went with him of her own free will and married him; and she has urged
that circumstance as a proof of her conviction of his innocence. Yet now
it becomes plain that at the time she left England with him she still
believed him to be her brother's slayer. Yet she asks us to believe that
he did not abduct her." He spread his hands again and pursed his lips in
a sort of grieved contempt.
"Let us make an end, a' God's name!" said Sir John, rising.
"Ah, wait!" she cried. "I swear that all that I have told you is true--
all but the matter of the abduction. I admit that, but I condoned it in
view of what I have since learnt."
"She admits it!" mocked Sir John.
But she went on without heeding him. "Knowing what he has suffered
through the evil of others, I gladly own him my husband, hoping to make
some amends to him for the part I had in his wrongs. You must believe
me, sirs. But if you will not, I ask you is his action of yesterday to
count for naught? Are you not to remember that but for him you would
have had no knowledge of my whereabouts?"
They stared at her in fresh surprise.
"To what do you refer now, mistress? What action of his is responsible
"Do you need to ask? Are you so set on murdering him that you affect
ignorance? Surely you know that it was he dispatched Lionel to inform
you of my whereabouts?"
Lord Henry tells us that at this he smote the table with his open palm,
displaying an anger he could no longer curb. "This is too much!" he
cried. "Hitherto I have believed you sincere but misguided and mistaken.
But so deliberate a falsehood transcends all bounds. What has come to
you, girl? Why, Lionel himself told us the circumstances of his escape
from the galeasse. Himself he told us how that villain had him flogged
and then flung him into the sea for dead."
"Ah!" said Sir Oliver between his teeth. "I recognize Lionel there! He
would be false to the end, of course. I should have thought of that."
Rosamund at bay, in a burst of regal anger leaned forward to face Lord
Henry and the others. "He lied, the base, treacherous dog!" she cried.
"Madam," Sir John rebuked her, "you are speaking of one who is all but
"And more than damned," added Sir Oliver. "Sirs," he cried, "you prove
naught but your own stupidity when you accuse this gentle lady of
"We have heard enough, sir," Lord Henry interrupted.
"Have you so, by God!" he roared, stung suddenly to anger. "You shall
hear yet a little more. The truth will prevail, you have said yourself;
and prevail the truth shall since this sweet lady so desires it."
He was flushed, and his light eyes played over them like points of steel,
and like points of steel they carried a certain measure of compulsion.
He had stood before them half-mocking and indifferent, resigned to hang
and desiring the thing might be over and ended as speedily as possible.
But all that was before he suspected that life could still have anything
to offer him, whilst he conceived that Rosamund was definitely lost to
him. True, he had the memory of a certain tenderness she had shown him
yesternight aboard the galley, but he had deemed that tenderness to be no
more than such as the situation itself begot. Almost he had deemed the
same to be here the case until he had witnessed her fierceness and
despair in fighting for his life, until he had heard and gauged the
sincerity of her avowal that she loved him and desired to make some
amends to him for all that he had suffered in the past. That had spurred
him, and had a further spur been needed, it was afforded him when they
branded her words with falsehood, mocked her to her face with what they
supposed to be her lies. Anger had taken him at that to stiffen his
resolve to make a stand against them and use the one weapon that remained
him--that a merciful chance, a just God had placed within his power
almost despite himself.
"I little knew, sirs," he said, "that Sir John was guided by the hand of
destiny itself when last night, in violation of the terms of my
surrender, he took a prisoner from my galeasse. That man is, as I have
said, a sometime English seaman, named Jasper Leigh. He fell into my
hands some months ago, and took the same road to escape from thraldom
that I took myself under the like circumstances. I was merciful in that
I permitted him to do so, for he is the very skipper who was suborned by
Lionel to kidnap me and carry me into Barbary. With me he fell into the
hands of the Spaniards. Have him brought hither, and question him."
In silence they all looked at him, but on more than one face he saw the
reflection of amazement at his impudence, as they conceived it.
It was Lord Henry who spoke at last. "Surely, sir, this is most oddly,
most suspiciously apt," he said, and there could be no doubt that he was
faintly sneering. "The very man to be here aboard, and taken prisoner
thus, almost by chance...."
"Not quite by chance, though very nearly. He conceives that he has a
grudge against Lionel, for it was through Lionel that misfortune overtook
him. Last night when Lionel so rashly leapt aboard the galley, Jasper
Leigh saw his opportunity to settle an old score and took it. It was as
a consequence of that that he was arrested."
"Even so, the chance is still miraculous."
"Miracles, my lord, must happen sometimes if the truth is to prevail,"
Sir Oliver replied with a tinge of his earlier mockery. "Fetch him
hither, and question him. He knows naught of what has passed here. It
were a madness to suppose him primed for a situation which none could
have foreseen. Fetch him hither, then."
Steps sounded outside but went unheeded at the moment.
"Surely," said Sir John, "we have been trifled with by liars long
The door was flung open, and the lean black figure of the surgeon made
"Sir John!" he called urgently, breaking without ceremony into the
proceedings, and never heeding Lord Henry's scowl. "Master Tressilian
has recovered consciousness. He is asking for you and for his brother.
Quick, sirs! He is sinking fast."
To that cabin below the whole company repaired in all speed in the
surgeon's wake, Sir Oliver coming last between his guards. They
assembled about the couch where Lionel lay, leaden-hued of face, his
breathing laboured, his eyes dull and glazing.
Sir John ran to him, went down upon one knee to put loving arms about
that chilling clay, and very gently raised him in them, and held him so
resting against his breast.
"Lionel!" he cried in stricken accents. And then as if thoughts of
vengeance were to soothe and comfort his sinking friend's last moments,
he added: "We have the villain fast."
Very slowly and with obvious effort Lionel turned his head to the right,
and his dull eyes went beyond Sir John and made quest in the ranks of
those that stood about him.
"Oliver?" he said in a hoarse whisper. "Where is Oliver?"
"There is not the need to distress you...." Sir John was beginning, when
Lionel interrupted him.
"Wait!" he commanded in a louder tone. "Is Oliver safe?"
"I am here," said Sir Oliver's deep voice, and those who stood between
him and his brother drew aside that they might cease from screening him.
Lionel looked at him for a long moment in silence, sitting up a little.
Then he sank back again slowly against Sir John's breast.
"God has been merciful to me a sinner," he said, since He accords me the
means to make amends, tardily though it be."
Then he struggled up again, and held out his arms to Sir Oliver, and his
voice came in a great pleading cry. "Noll! My brother! Forgive!"
Oliver advanced, none hindering until, with his hands still pinioned
behind him he stood towering there above his brother, so tall that his
turban brushed the low ceiling of the cabin. His countenance was stern
"What is it that you ask me to forgive?" he asked. Lionel struggled to
answer, and sank back again into Sir John's arms, fighting for breath;
there was a trace of blood-stained foam about his lips.
"Speak! Oh, speak, in God's name!" Rosamund exhorted him from the other
side, and her voice was wrung with agony.
He looked at her, and smiled faintly. "Never fear," he whispered, "I
shall speak. God has spared me to that end. Take your arms from me,
Killigrew. I am the...the vilest of men. It...it was I who killed Peter
"My God!" groaned Sir John, whilst Lord Henry drew a sharp breath of
dismay and realization.
"Ah, but that is not my sin," Lionel continued. "There was no sin in
that. We fought, and in self-defence I slew him--fighting fair. My sin
came afterwards. When suspicion fell on Oliver, I nourished it...Oliver
knew the deed was mine, and kept silent that he might screen me. I
feared the truth might become known for all that...and...and I was
jealous of him, and...and I had him kidnapped to be sold...."
His fading voice trailed away into silence. A cough shook him, and the
faint crimson foam on his lips was increased. But he rallied again, and
lay there panting, his fingers plucking at the coverlet.
"Tell them," said Rosamund, who in her desperate fight for Sir Oliver's
life kept her mind cool and steady and directed towards essentials, "tell
them the name of the man you hired to kidnap him."
"Jasper Leigh, the skipper of the Swallow," he answered, whereupon she
flashed upon Lord Henry a look that contained a gleam of triumph for all
that her face was ashen and her lips trembled.
Then she turned again to the dying man, relentlessly almost in her
determination to extract all vital truth from him ere he fell silent.
"Tell them," she bade him, "under what circumstances Sir Oliver sent you
last night to the Silver Heron."
"Nay, there is no need to harass him," Lord Henry interposed. "He has
said enough already. May God forgive us our blindness, Killigrew!"
Sir John bowed his head in silence over Lionel.
"Is it you, Sir John?" whispered the dying man. "What? Still there?
Ha!" he seemed to laugh faintly, then checked. "I am going...." he
muttered, and again his voice grew stronger, obeying the last flicker of
his shrinking will. "Noll! I am going! I...I have made reparation...all
that I could. Give me...give me thy hand!" Gropingly he put forth his
"I should have given it you ere this but that my wrists are bound," cried
Oliver in a sudden frenzy. And then exerting that colossal strength of
his, he suddenly snapped the cords that pinioned him as if they had been
thread. He caught his brother's extended hand, and dropped upon his
knees beside him. "Lionel...Boy!" he cried. It was as if all that had
befallen in the last five years had been wiped out of existence. His
fierce relentless hatred of his half-brother, his burning sense of wrong,
his parching thirst for vengeance, became on the instant all dead,
buried, and forgotten. More, it was as if they had never been. Lionel
in that moment was again the weak, comely, beloved brother whom he had
cherished and screened and guarded, and for whom when the hour arrived he
had sacrificed his good name, and the woman he loved, and placed his life
itself in jeopardy.
"Lionel, boy!" was all that for a moment he could say. Then: "Poor lad!
Poor lad!" he added. "Temptation was too strong for thee." And reaching
forth he took the other white hand that lay beyond the couch, and so held
both tight-clasped within his own.
From one of the ports a ray of sunshine was creeping upwards towards the
dying man's face. But the radiance that now overspread it was from an
inward source. Feebly he returned the clasp of his brother's hands.
"Oliver, Oliver!" he whispered. "There is none like thee! I ever knew
thee as noble as I was base. Have I said enough to make you safe? Say
that he will be safe now," he appealed to the others, "that no...."
"He will be safe," said Lord Henry stoutly. "My word on't."
"It is well. The past is past. The future is in your hands, Oliver.
God's blessing on't." He seemed to collapse, to rally yet again. He
smiled pensively, his mind already wandering. "That was a long swim last
night--the longest I ever swam. From Penarrow to Trefusis--a fine long
swim. But you were with me, Noll. Had my strength given out...I could
have depended on you. I am still chill from it, for it was
cold...cold...ugh!" He shuddered, and lay still.
Gently Sir John lowered him to his couch. Beyond it Rosamund fell upon
her knees and covered her face, whilst by Sir John's side Oliver
continued to kneel, clasping in his own his brother's chilling hands.
There ensued a long spell of silence. Then with a heavy sigh Sir Oliver
folded Lionel's hands across his breast, and slowly, heavily rose to his
The others seemed to take this for a signal. It was as if they had but
waited mute and still out of deference to Oliver. Lord Henry moved
softly round to Rosamund and touched her lightly upon the shoulder. She
rose and went out in the wake of the others, Lord Henry following her,
and none remaining but the surgeon.
Outside in the sunshine they checked. Sir John stood with bent head and
hunched shoulders, his eyes upon the white deck. Timidly almost--a thing
never seen before in this bold man--he looked at Sir Oliver.
"He was my friend," he said sorrowfully, and as if to excuse and explain
himself, "and...and I was misled through love of him."
"He was my brother," replied Sir Oliver solemnly. "God rest him!"
Sir John, resolved, drew himself up into an attitude preparatory to
receiving with dignity a rebuff should it be administered him.
"Can you find it in your generosity, sir, to forgive me?" he asked, and
his air was almost one of challenge.
Silently Sir Oliver held out his hand. Sir John fell upon it almost in
"We are like to be neighbours again," he said, "and I give you my word I
shall strive to be a more neighbourly one than in the past."
"Then, sirs," said Sir Oliver, looking from Sir John to Lord Henry, "I am
to understand that I am no longer a prisoner."
"You need not hesitate to return with us to England, Sir Oliver," replied
his lordship. "The Queen shall hear your story, and we have Jasper Leigh
to confirm it if need be, and I will go warranty for your complete
reinstatement. Count me your friend, Sir Oliver, I beg." And he, too,
held out his hand. Then turning to the others: "Come, sirs," he said,
"we have duties elsewhere, I think."
They tramped away, leaving Oliver and Rosamund alone. The twain looked
long each at the other. There was so much to say, so much to ask, so
much to explain, that neither knew with what words to begin. Then
Rosamund suddenly came up to him, holding out her hands. "Oh, my dear!"
she said, and that, after all, summed up a deal.
One or two over-inquisitive seamen, lounging on the forecastle and
peeping through the shrouds, were disgusted to see the lady of Godolphin
Court in the arms of a beturbaned bare-legged follower of Mahound.