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A Set of Rogues by Frank Barrett

Part 2 out of 6

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think you, Senor, ere we can quit this palace and get to one of those
posadas you promised us?"

Don Sanchez hunched his shoulders for all reply and turned away to hide
his mortification. And now a girl comes up with a biggin of water on her
head, a broken comb in her hand, and a ragged cloth on her arm that
looked as if it had never been washed since it left the loom, and sets
them down on a bench, with a grin at Moll; but she, though not
over-nice, turns away with a pout of disgust, and then we to get a
breath of fresh air to a hole in the wall on the windward side, where we
stand all dumb with disappointment and dread until we are called down to
dinner. But before going down Don Sanchez warns us to stand on our best
behaviour, as these Spaniards, for all their rude seeming, were of a
particularly punctilious, ticklish disposition, and that we might come
badly out of this business if we happened to displease them.

"I cannot see reason in that, Senor," says Dawson; "for the less we
please 'em, the sooner they are likely to send us hence, and so the
better for us."

"As you please," replies the Don, "but my warning is to your advantage."

Down we go, and there stands Don Lopez with a dozen choice friends, all
the raggedest, dirty villains in the world; and they saluting us, we
return their civility with a very fair pretence and take the seats
offered us--they standing until we are set. Then they sit down, and each
man lugs out a knife from his waist-cloth. The cauldron, filled with a
mess of kid stewed in a multitude of onions, is fetched from the fire,
and, being set upon a smooth board, is slid down the table to our host,
who, after picking out some titbits for us, serves himself, and so
slides it back, each man in turn picking out a morsel on the end of his
knife. Bearing in mind Don Sanchez's warning, we do our best to eat of
this dish; but, Heaven knows! with little relish, and mighty glad when
the cauldron is empty and that part of the performance ended. Then the
bones being swept from the table, a huge skin of wine is set before Don
Lopez, and he serves us each with about a quart in an odd-shaped vessel
with a spout, which Don Sanchez and his countrymen use by holding it
above their heads and letting the wine spurt into their mouths; but we,
being unused to this fashion, preferred rather to suck it out of the
spout, which seemed to them as odd a mode as theirs was to us. However,
better wine, drink it how you may, there is none than the wine of these
parts, and this reconciling us considerably to our condition, we
listened with content to their singing of ditties, which they did very
well for such rude fellows, to the music of a guitar and a tambourine.
And so when our pots came to be replenished a second time, we were all
mighty merry and agreeable save Jack Dawson, who never could take his
liquor like any other man, but must fall into some extravagant humour,
and he, I perceived, regarded some of the company with a very sour,
jealous eye because, being warmed with drink, they fell to casting
glances at Moll with a certain degree of familiarity. Especially there
was one fellow with a hook nose, who stirred his bile exceedingly,
sitting with his elbows on the table and his jaws in his hands, and
would scarcely shift his eyes from Moll. And since he could not make his
displeasure understood in words, and so give vent to it and be done,
Jack sat there in sullen silence watching for an opportunity to show his
resentment in some other fashion. The other saw this well enough, but
would not desist, and so these two sat fronting each other like two dogs
ready to fly at each other's throats. At length, the hook-nosed rascal,
growing bolder with his liquor, rises as if to reach for his wine pot,
and stretching across the table, chucks Moll under the chin with his
grimy fingers. At this Jack flinging out his great fist with all the
force of contained passion, catches the other right in the middle of the
face, with such effect that the fellow flies clean back over his bench,
his head striking the pavement with a crash. Then, in an instant, all
his fellows spring to their feet, and a dozen long knives flash out from
their sheaths.

CHAPTER IX.

_Of the manner in which we escaped pretty fairly out of the hands of
Senor Don Lopez and his brigands._

Up starts Jack Dawson, catching Moll by the arm and his joint stool by
the leg, and stepping back a pace or two not to be taken in the flank,
he swings his stool ready to dash the brains out of the first that nears
him. And I do likewise, making the same show of valour with my stool,
but cutting a poor figure beside Dawson's mighty presence.

Seeing their fellow laid out for dead on the floor, with his hook nose
smashed most horridly into his face, the others had no stomach to meet
the same fate, but with their Spanish cunning began to spread out that
so they might attack us on all sides; and surely this had done our
business but that Don Lopez, flinging himself before us with his knife
raised high, cries out at the top of his voice, "Rekbah!"--a word of
their own language, I am told, taken from the Moorish, and signifying
that whosoever shall outrage the laws of hospitality under his roof
shall be his enemy to the death. And at this word every man stood still
as if by inchantment, and let fall his weapon. Then in the same high
voice he gives them an harangue, showing them that Dawson was in the
right to avenge an insult offered his daughter, and the other justly
served for his offence to us. "For his offence to me as the host of
these strangers," adds he, "Jose shall answer to me hereafter if he
live; if he be dead, his body shall be flung to the vultures of the
gorge, and his name be never uttered again beneath this roof."

"I bear no grudges, not I," says Dawson, when Don Sanchez gave him the
English of this. "If he live, let his nose be set; and if dead, let him
be buried decently in a churchyard. But hark ye, Senor, lest we fall out
again and come out worse the next bout, do pray ask his worship if we
may not be accommodated with a guide to take us on our way at once. We
have yet two hours of daylight before us, there's not a cloud in the
sky, and with such a moon as we had the night before last, we may get on
well enough."

Poor Moll, who was all of a shake with the terror of another
catastrophe, added her prayers to Dawson's, and Don Sanchez with a
profusion of civilities laid the proposal before Don Lopez, who, though
professing the utmost regret to lose us so soon, consented to gratify
our wish, adding that his mules were so well accustomed to the road that
they could make the journey as well in the dark as in broad day.

"Well, then," says Dawson, when this was told us, "let us settle the
business at once, and be off."

And now, when Don Sanchez proposed to pay for the service of our guides,
it was curious to see how every rascal at the table craned forward to
watch the upshot. Don Lopez makes a pretence of leaving the payment to
Don Sanchez's generosity; and he, not behindhand in courtesy, lugs out
his purse and begs the other to pay himself. Whereupon, with more
apologies, Don Lopez empties the money on the table and carefully counts
it, and there being but about a score of gold pieces and some silver, he
shakes his head and says a few words to Don Sanchez in a very
reproachful tone of remonstrance, to which our Don replies by turning
all the trifles out of his pocket, one after the other, to prove that he
has no money.

"I thought as much," growls Jack in my ear. "A pretty nest of hornets
we're fallen into."

The company, seeing there was no more to be got out of Don Sanchez,
began to murmur and cast their eyes at us; whereupon Dawson, seeing how
the land lay, stands up and empties his pockets on the table, and I
likewise; but betwixt us there was no more than some French pennies and
a few odds and ends of no value at all. Fetching a deep sigh, Don Lopez
takes all these possessions into a heap before him, and tells Don
Sanchez that he cannot believe persons of our quality could travel with
so little, that he feels convinced Don Sanchez must have dropped a purse
on the way, and that until it is found he can on no account allow us to
leave the neighbourhood.

"This comes of being so mighty fine!" says Dawson, when Don Sanchez had
explained matters. "Had we travelled as became our condition, this
brigand would never have ensnared us hither. And if they won't believe
your story, Senor, I can't blame 'em; for I would have sworn you had a
thousand pounds to your hand."

"Do you reproach me for my generosity?" asks the Don.

"Nay, Master, I love you for being free with your money while you have
it, but 'tis a queer kind of generosity to bring us into these parts
with no means of taking us back again. Hows'ever, we'll say no more
about that if we get out of this cursed smoke-hole; and as we are like
to come off ill if these Jack-thieves keep us here a week or so and get
nothing by it, 'twill be best to tell 'em the honest truth, and acquaint
them that we are no gentle folk, but only three poor English mountebanks
brought hither on a wild goose chase."

This was a bitter pill for Don Sanchez to swallow; however, seeing no
other cure for our ills, he gulped it down with the best face he could
put on it. But from the mockery and laughter of all who heard him, 'twas
plain to see they would not believe a word of his story.

"What would you have me do now?" asks the Don, turning to us when the
clamour had subsided, and he told us how he had tried to persuade them
we were dancers he was taking for a show to the fair at Barcelona, which
they, by our looks, would not believe, and especially that a man of such
build as Jack Dawson could foot it, even to please such heavy people as
the English.

"What!" cries Jack. "I can't dance! We will pretty soon put them to
another complexion if they do but give us space and a fair trial. You
can strum a guitar, Kit, for I've heard you. And Moll, my chick, do you
dash the tears from your cheek and pluck up courage to show these
Portugals what an English lass can do."

The brigands agreeing to this trial, the table is shoved back to give us
a space in the best light, and our judges seat themselves conveniently.
Moll brushes her eyes (to a little murmur of sympathy, as I thought),
and I, striking out the tune, Jack, with all the magnificence of a king,
takes her hand and leads her out to a French pavan; and sure no one in
the world ever stepped it more gracefully than our poor little Moll (now
put upon her mettle), nor more lightly than Dawson, so that every rascal
in our audience was won to admiration, clapping hands and shouting
"Hola!" when it was done. And this warming us, we gave 'em next an
Italian coranto, and after that, an English pillow dance; and, in good
faith, had they all been our dearest friends, these dirty fellows could
not have gone more mad with delight. And then Moll and her father
sitting down to fetch their breath, a dispute arose among the brigands
which we were at a loss to understand, until Don Sanchez explained that
a certain number would have it we were real dancers, but that another
party, with Don Lopez, maintained these were but court dances, which
only proved the more we were of high quality to be thus accomplished.

"We'll convince 'em yet, Moll, with a pox of their doubts," cries
Dawson, starting to his feet again. "Tell 'em we will give 'em a stage
dance of a nymph and a wild man, Senor, with an excuse for our having no
costume but this. Play us our pastoral, Kit. And sing you your ditty of
'Broken Heart,' Moll, in the right place, that I may get my wind for the
last caper."

Moll nods, and with ready wit takes the ribbon from her head, letting
her pretty hair tumble all about her shoulders, and then whipping up her
long skirt, tucks one end under her girdle, thereby making a very dainty
show of pink lining against the dark stuff, and also giving more play
for her feet. And so thus they dance their pastoral, Don Sanchez taking
a tambourine and tapping it lightly to the measure, up to Moll's song,
which so ravished these hardy, stony men by the pathetic sweetness of
her voice,--for they could understand nothing save by her
expression,--that they would not let the dance go on until she had sung
it through again. To conclude, Jack springs up as one enamoured to
madness and flings out his last steps with such vigour and agility as to
quite astound all.

[Illustration: "MOLL AND HER FATHER DANCE A PASTORAL."]

And now the show being ended, and not one but is a-crying of "Hola!" and
"Animo!" Moll snatches the tambourine from Don Sanchez's hand, and
stepping before Don Lopez drops him a curtsey, and offers it for her
reward. At this Don Lopez, glancing at the money on the table by his
side, and looking round for sanction to his company (which they did give
him without one voice of opposition), he takes up two of the gold pieces
and drops them on the parchment. Thus did our Moll, by one clever hit,
draw an acknowledgment from them that we were indeed no fine folks, but
mere players, which point they might have stumbled over in their cooler
moments.

But we were not quit yet; for on Don Sanchez's begging that we should
now be set upon our road to Ravellos, the other replies that though he
will do us this service with great pleasure, yet he cannot permit us to
encounter the danger again of being taken for persons of quality. "Fine
dress," says he, "may be necessary to the Senor and his daughter for
their court dances, and they are heartily welcome to them for the
pleasure they have given us, but for you and the musician who plays but
indifferent well, meaner garb is more suitable; and so you will be good
enough to step upstairs, the pair of you, and change your clothing for
such as we can furnish from our store."

And upstairs we were forced to go, Don Sanchez and I, and there being
stripped we were given such dirty foul rags and so grotesque, that when
we came down, Jack Dawson and Moll fell a-laughing at us, as though they
would burst. And, in truth, we made a most ludicrous spectacle,
--especially the Don, whom hitherto we had seen only in the
neatest and most noble of clothes,--looking more like a couple of
scarecrows than living men.

Don Sanchez neither smiled nor frowned at this treatment, taking this
misfortune with the resignation of a philosopher; only to quiet Dawson's
merriment he told him that in the clothes taken from him was sewed up a
bond for two hundred pounds, but whether this was true or not I cannot
tell.

And now, to bring an end to this adventure, we were taken down the
intricate passes of the mountain in the moonlight, as many of the gang
as could find mules coming with us for escort, and brought at last to
the main road, where we were left with nought but what we stood in (save
Moll's two pieces), the robbers bidding us their adios with all the
courtesy imaginable. But even then, robbed of all he had even to the
clothes of his back, Don Sanchez's pride was unshaken, for he bade us
note that the very thieves in Spain were gentlemen.

As we trudged along the road toward Ravellos, we fell debating on our
case, as what we should do next, etc., Don Sanchez promising that we
should have redress for our ill-treatment, that his name alone would
procure us a supply of money for our requirements, etc., to my great
content. But Dawson was of another mind.

"As for seeking redress," says he, "I would as soon kick at a hive for
being stung by a bee, and the wisest course when you've been once bit by
a dog is to keep out of his way for the future. With respect of getting
money by your honour's name, you may do as you please, and so may you,
Kit, if you're so minded. But for my part, henceforth I'll pretend to be
no better than I am, and the first suit of rags I can get will I wear in
the fashion of this country. And so shall you, Moll, my dear; so make up
your mind to lay aside your fine airs and hold up your nose no longer as
if you were too good for your father."

"Why, surely, Jack," says I, "you would not quit us and go from your
bargain."

"Not I, and you should know me well enough, Kit, to have no doubt on
that score. But 'tis no part of our bargain that we should bustle
anybody but Simon the steward."

"We have four hundred miles to go ere we reach Elche," says Don Sanchez.
"Can you tell me how we are to get there without money?"

"Aye, that I can, and I warrant my plan as good as your honour's. How
many tens are there in four hundred, Kit?"

"Forty."

"Well, we can walk ten miles a day on level ground, and so may do this
journey in six weeks or thereabouts, which is no such great matter,
seeing we are not to be back in England afore next year. We can buy a
guitar and a tabor out of Moll's pieces; with them we can give a show
wherever we stay for the night, and if honest men do but pay us half as
much as the thieves of this country, we may fare pretty well."

"I confess," says Don Sanchez, "your scheme is the best, and I would
myself have proposed it but that I can do so little for my share."

"Why, what odds does that make, Senor?" cries Jack. "You gave us of the
best while you had aught to give, and 'tis but fair we should do the
same now. Besides which, how could we get along without you for a
spokesman, and I marked that you drummed to our dance very tunefully.
Come, is it a bargain, friend?"

And on Don Sanchez's consenting, Jack would have us all shake hands on
it for a sign of faith and good fellowship. Then, perceiving that we
were arrived at the outskirts of the town, we ended our discussion.

CHAPTER X.

_Of our merry journeying to Alicante._

We turned into the first posada we came to--a poor, mean sort of an inn
and general shop, to be sure, but we were in no condition to cavil about
trifles, being fagged out with our journey and the adventures of the
day, and only too happy to find a house of entertainment still open. So
after a dish of sausages with very good wine, we to our beds and an end
to the torment of fleas I had endured from the moment I changed my
French habit for Spanish rags.

The next morning, when we had eaten a meal of goats' milk and bread and
paid our reckoning, which amounted to a few rials and no more, Don
Sanchez and I, taking what rested of Moll's two pieces, went forth into
the town and there bought two plain suits of clothes for ourselves in
the mode of the country, and (according to his desire) another of the
same cut for Dawson, together with a little jacket and petticoat for
Moll. And these expenditures left us but just enough to buy a good
guitar and a tambourine--indeed, we should not have got them at all but
that Don Sanchez higgled and bargained like any Jew, which he could do
with a very good face now that he was dressed so beggarly. Then back to
our posada, where in our room Jack and I were mighty merry in putting on
our new clothes; but going below we find Moll still dressed in her
finery, and sulking before the petticoat and jacket we had bought for
her, which she would not put on by any persuasion until her father fell
into a passion of anger. And the sight of him fuming in a short jacket
barely covering his loins, and a pair of breeches so tight the seams
would scarce hold together, so tickled her sense of humour that she fell
into a long fit of laughter, and this ending her sulks she went upstairs
with a good grace and returned in her hated petticoat, carrying her fine
dress in a bundle. But I never yet knew the time when this sly baggage
would not please herself for all her seeming yielding to others, and we
were yet to have more pain from her than she from us in respect of that
skirt. For ere we had got half way through the town she, dawdling behind
to look first in this shop and then in that, gave us the slip, so that
we were best part of an hour hunting the streets up and down in the
utmost anxiety. Then as we were sweating with our exercise and trouble,
lo! she steps out of a shop as calm as you please in a petticoat and
jacket of her own fancy (and ten times more handsome than our purchase),
a red shawl tied about her waist, and a little round hat with a bright
red bob in it, set on one side of her head, and all as smart as a
carrot.

"Da!" says she, "where have you been running all this time?"

And we, betwixt joy at finding her and anger at her impudence, could say
nothing; and yet we were fain to admire her audacity too. But how, not
knowing one word of the language, she had made her wants known was a
mystery, and how she had obtained this finery was another, seeing that
we had spent all there was of her two pieces. Certainly she had not
changed her French gown and things for them, for these in a cumbrous
bundle had her father been carrying up and down the town since we lost
the minx.

"If you han't stole 'em," says Dawson, finding his tongue at last,
"where did you find the money to pay for those trappings, slut?"

"In my pocket, sir," says she, with a curtsey, "where you might have
found yours had you not emptied it so readily for the robbers yesterday.
And I fancy," adds she slyly, "I may still find some left to offer you a
dinner at midday if you will accept of it."

This hint disposed us to make light of our grievance against her, and we
went out of Ravellos very well satisfied to know that our next meal
depended not solely upon chance. And this, together with the bright
sunlight and the sweet invigorating morning air, did beget in us a
spirit of happy carelessness, in keeping with the smiling gay aspect of
the country about us.

It was strange to see how easily Moll fell into our happy-go-lucky
humour, she, who had been as stately as any Roman queen in her long
gown, being now, in her short coloured petticoat, as frolicsome and
familiar as a country wench at a fair; but indeed she was a born actress
and could accommodate herself as well to one condition as another with
the mere change of clothes. But I think this state was more to her real
taste than the other, as putting no restraint upon her impulses and
giving free play to her healthy, exuberant mirth. Her very step was a
kind of dance, and she must needs fall a-carolling of songs like a lark
when it flies. Then she would have us rehearse our old songs to our new
music. So, slinging my guitar in front of me, I put it in tune, and Jack
ties his bundle to his back that he may try his hand at the tambourine.
And so we march along singing and playing as if to a feast, and stopping
only to laugh prodigiously when one or other fell out of tune,--the most
mad, light-hearted fools in the world;--but I speak not of Don Sanchez,
who, feel what he might, never relaxed his high bearing or unbent his
serious countenance.

One thing I remember of him on this journey. Having gone about five
miles, we sat us down on a bridge to rest a while, and there the Don
left us to go a little way up the course of the stream that flowed
beneath, and he came back with a posey of sweet jonquils set off with a
delicate kind of fern very pretty, and this he presents to Moll with a
gracious little speech, which act, it seemed to me, was to let her know
that he respected her still as a young gentlewoman in spite of her short
petticoat, and Moll was not dull to the compliment neither; for, after
the first cry of delight in seeing these natural dainty flowers (she
loving such things beyond all else in the world), she bethought her to
make him a curtsey and reply to his speech with another as good and well
turned, as she set them in her waist scarf. Also I remember on this road
we saw oranges and lemons growing for the first time, but full a mile
after Moll had first caught their wondrous perfume in the air. And these
trees, which are about the size of a crab tree, grew in close groves on
either side of the road, with no manner of fence to protect them, so
that any one is lief to pluck what he may without let, so plentiful are
they, and curious to see how fruit and blossom grow together on the same
bush, the lemons, as I hear, giving four crops in the year, and more
delicious, full, and juicy than any to be bought in England at six to
the groat.

We got a dinner of bread and cheese (very high) at a roadside house, and
glad to have that, only no meat of any kind, but excellent good wine
with dried figs and walnuts, which is the natural food of this country,
where one may go a week without touching flesh and yet feel as strong
and hearty at the end. And here very merry, Jack in his pertinacious,
stubborn spirit declaring he would drink his wine in the custom of the
country or none at all, and so lifting up the spouted mug at arm's
length he squirts the liquor all over his face, down his new clothes and
everywhere but into his mouth, before he could arrive to do it like Don
Sanchez; but getting into the trick of it, he so mighty proud of his
achievement that he must drink pot after pot until he got as drunk as
any lord. So after that, finding a retired place,--it being midday and
prodigious hot (though only now in mid-April),--we lay down under the
orange trees and slept a long hour, to our great refreshment. Dawson on
waking remembered nothing of his being drunk, and felt not one penny the
worse for it. And so on another long stretch through sweet country, with
here and there a glimpse of the Mediterranean, in the distance, of a
surprising blueness, before we reached another town, and that on the top
of a high hill. But it seems that all the towns in these parts (save
those armed with fortresses) are thus built for security against the
pirates, who ravage the seaboard of this continent incessantly from end
to end. And for this reason the roads leading up to the town are made
very narrow, tortuous, and difficult, with watch-towers in places, and
many points where a few armed men lying in ambush may overwhelm an enemy
ten times as strong. The towns themselves are fortified with gates, the
streets extremely narrow and crooked, and the houses massed all together
with secret passages one to another, and a network of little alleys
leading whither only the inhabitants knew, so that if an enemy do get
into them 'tis ten to one he will never come out alive.

It being market day in this town, here Jack and his daughter gave a show
of dancing, first in their French suits, which were vastly admired, and
after in their Spanish clothes; but then they were asked to dance a
fandango, which they could not. However, we fared very well, getting the
value of five shillings in little moneys, and the innkeepers would take
nothing for our entertainment, because of the custom we had brought his
house, which we considered very handsome on his part.

We set out again the next morning, but having shown how we passed the
first day I need not dwell upon those which followed before we reached
Barcelona, there being nothing of any great importance to tell. Only
Moll was now all agog to learn the Spanish dances, and I cannot easily
forget how, after much coaxing and wheedling on her part, she at length
persuaded Don Sanchez to show her a fandango; for, surely, nothing in
the world was ever more comic than this stately Don, without any music,
and in the middle of the high road, cutting capers, with a countenance
as solemn as any person at a burying. No one could be more quick to
observe the ludicrous than he, nor more careful to avoid ridicule;
therefore it said much for Moll's cajolery, or for the love he bore her
even at this time, to thus expose himself to Dawson's rude mirth and
mine in order to please her.

We reached Barcelona the 25th of April, and there we stayed till the 1st
of May, for Moll would go no further before she had learnt a bolero and
a fandango--which dances we saw danced at a little theatre excellently
well, but in a style quite different to ours, and the women very fat and
plain. And though Moll, being but a slight slip of a lass, in whom the
warmer passions were unbegotten, could not give the bolero the
voluptuous fervour of the Spanish dancers, yet in agility and in pretty
innocent grace she did surpass them all to nought, which was abundantly
proved when she danced it in our posada before a court full of
Spaniards, for there they were like mad over her, casting their silk
handkerchiefs at her feet in homage, and filling Jack's tambourine three
times over with cigarros and a plentiful scattering of rials. And I
believe, had we stayed there, we might have made more money than ever we
wanted at that time--though not so much as Don Sanchez had set his mind
on; wherefore he would have us jogging again as soon as Moll could be
brought to it.

From Barcelona, we journeyed a month to Valencia, growing more indolent
with our easier circumstances, and sometimes trudging no more than five
or six miles in a day. And we were, I think, the happiest, idlest set of
vagabonds in existence. But, indeed, in this country there is not that
spur to exertion which is for ever goading us in this. The sun fills
one's heart with content, and for one's other wants a few halfpence a
day will suffice, and if you have them not 'tis no such great matter.
For these people are exceeding kind and hospitable; they will give you a
measure of wine if you are thirsty, as we would give a mug of water, and
the poorest man will not sit down to table without making you an offer
to share what he has. Wherever we went we were well received, and in
those poor villages where they had no money to give they would pay us
for our show in kind, one giving us bed, another board, and filling our
wallets ere we left 'em with the best they could afford.

'Twas our habit to walk a few miles before dinner, to sleep in the shade
during the heat of the day, and to reach a town (if possible) by the
fall of the sun. There would we spend half the night in jollity, and lie
abed late in the morning. The inns and big houses in these parts are
built in the form of squares, enclosing an open court with a sort of
arcade all round, and mostly with a grape-vine running over the sunnier
side, and in this space we used to give our performance, by the light of
oil lamps hung here and there conveniently, with the addition, maybe, of
moonlight reflected from one of the white walls. Here any one was free
to enter, we making no charge, but taking only what they would freely
give. And this treatment engenders a feeling of kindness on both sides
(very different to our sentiment at home, where we players as often as
not dread the audience as a kind of enemy, ready to tear us to pieces if
we fail to please), and ours was as great a pleasure to amuse as theirs
to be amused. I can recall to mind nothing of any moment occurring on
this journey, save that we spent some time every day in perfecting our
Spanish dances, I getting to play the tunes correctly, which at first I
made sad bungling of, and Dawson in learning of his steps. Also, he and
Moll acquired the use of a kind of clappers, called costagnettes, which
they play with their hands in these fandangos and boleros, with a very
pleasing effect.

At Valencia we stayed a week and three days, lingering more than was
necessary, in order to see a bull-fight. And this pastime they do not as
we with dogs, but with men, and the bull quite free, and, save for the
needless killing of horses, I think this a very noble exercise, being a
fair trial of human address against brute force. And 'tis not nearly so
beastly as seeing a prize fought by men, and not more cruel, I take it,
than the shooting of birds and hares for sport, seeing that the agony of
death is no greater for a sturdy bull than for a timid coney, and hath
this advantage, that the bull, when exhausted, is despatched quickly,
whereas the bird or hare may just escape capture, to die a miserable
long death with a shattered limb.

From Valencia we travelled five weeks (growing, I think, more lazy every
day), over very hilly country to Alicante, a seaport town very strongly
protected by a castle on a great rock, armed with guns of brass and
iron, so that the pirates dare never venture near. And here I fully
thought we were to dawdle away another week at the least, this being a
very populous and lively city, promising much entertainment. For Moll,
when not playing herself, was mad to see others play, and she did really
govern, with her subtle wiles and winning smiles, more than her father,
for all his masterful spirit, or Don Sanchez with his stern authority.
But seeing two or three English ships in the port, the Don deemed it
advisable that we should push on at once for Elche, and, to our great
astonishment, Moll consented to our speedy going without demur, though
why, we could not then discover, but did soon after, as I shall
presently show.

CHAPTER XI.

_Of our first coming to Elche and the strangeness of that city._

Being resolved to our purpose overnight, we set out fairly early in the
morning for Elche, which lies half a dozen leagues or thereabouts to the
west of Alicante. Our way lay through gardens of oranges and spreading
vineyards, which flourish exceedingly in this part, being protected from
unkind winds by high mountains against the north and east; and here you
shall picture us on the white, dusty road, Moll leading the way a dozen
yards in advance, a tambourine slung on her back with streaming ribbons
of many colours, taking two or three steps on one foot, and then two or
three steps on t'other, with a Spanish twist of her hips at each turn,
swinging her arms as she claps her costagnettes to the air of a song she
had picked up at Barcelona, and we three men plodding behind, the Don
with a guitar across his back, Dawson with our bundle of clothes, and I
with a wallet of provisions hanging o' one side and a skin of wine on
the other--and all as white as any millers with the dust of Moll's
dancing.

"It might be as well," says Don Sanchez, in his solemn, deliberate
manner, "if Mistress Moll were advised to practise her steps in our
rear."

"Aye, Senor," replied Dawson, "I've been of the same mind these last ten
minutes. But with your consent, Don Sanchez, I'll put her to a more
serious exercise."

The Don consenting with a bow, Jack continues:

"You may have observed that I haven't opened my lips since we left the
town, and the reason thereof is that I've been turning over in my mind
whether, having come thus far, it would not be advisable to let my Moll
know of our project. Because, if she should refuse, the sooner we
consider some other plan, the better, seeing that now she is in good
case and as careless as a bird on the bough, and she is less tractable
to our purposes than when she felt the pinch of hunger and cold and
would have jumped at anything for a bit of comfort."

"Does she not know of our design?" asks the Don, lifting his eyebrows.

"No more than the man in the moon, Senor," answers Jack. "For, though
Kit and I may have discoursed of it at odd times, we have been mighty
careful to shut our mouths or talk of a fine day at her approach."

"Very good," says Don Sanchez. "You are her father."

"And she shall know it," says Jack, with resolution, and taking a stride
or two in advance he calls to her to give over dancing and come to him.

"Have you forgot your breeding," he asks as she turns and waits for him,
"that you have no more respect for your elders than to choke 'em with
dust along of your shuffling?"

"What a thoughtless thing am I!" cries she, in a voice of contrition.
"Why, you're floured as white as a shade!"

Then taking up a corner of her waist-shawl, she gently rubs away the
dust from the tip of his nose, so that it stood out glowing red from his
face like a cherry through a hole in a pie-crust, at which she claps her
hands and rings out a peal of laughter.

"I counted to make a lady of you, Moll," says Jack, in sorrow, "but I
see plainly you will ever be a fool, and so 'tis to no purpose to speak
seriously."

"Surely, father, I have ever been what you wish me to be," answers she,
demurely, curious now to know what he would be telling her.

"Then do you put them plaguy clappers away, and listen to me patiently,"
says he.

Moll puts her hands behind her, and drawing a long lip and casting round
eyes at us over her shoulder, walks along very slowly by her father's
side, while he broaches the matter to her. And this he did with some
difficulty (for 'tis no easy thing to make a roguish plot look
innocent), as we could see by his shifting his bundle from one shoulder
to the other now and again, scratching his ear and the like; but what he
said, we, walking a pace or two behind, could not catch, he dropping to
a very low tone as if ashamed to hear his own voice. To all he has to
tell she listens very attentively, but in the end she says something
which causes him to stop dead short and turn upon her gaping like a pig.

"What!" he cries as we came up. "You knew all this two months ago?"

"Yes, father," answers she, primly, "quite two months."

"And pray who told you?" he asks.

"No one, father, since you forbade me to ask questions. But though I may
be dumb to oblige you, I can't be deaf. Kit and you are for ever
a-talking of it."

"Maybe, child," says Dawson, mightily nettled. "Maybe you know why we
left Alicante this morning."

"I should be dull indeed if I didn't," answers she. "And if you hadn't
said when we saw the ships that we might meet more Englishmen in the
town than we might care to know hereafter, why,--well, maybe we should
have been in Alicante now."

"By denying yourself that satisfaction," says Don Sanchez, "we may
conclude that the future we are making for you is not unacceptable."

Moll stopped and says with some passion:

"I would turn back now and go over those mountains the way we came to
ride through France in my fine gown like a lady."

"Brava! bravamente!" says the Don, in a low voice, as she steps on in
front of us, holding her head high with the recollection of her former
state.

"She was ever like that," whispers Dawson, with pride. "We could never
get her to play a mean part willingly; could we, Kit? She was for ever
wanting the part of a queen writ for her."

The next day about sundown, coming to a little eminence, Don Sanchez
points out a dark patch of forest lying betwixt us and the mountains,
and says:

"That is Elche, the place where we are to stay some months."

We could make out no houses at all, but he told us the town lay in the
middle of the forest, and added some curious particulars as how, lying
on flat ground and within easy access of the sea, it could not exist at
all but for the sufferance of the Spaniards on one side and of the
Barbary pirates on the other, how both for their own convenience
respected it as neutral ground on which each could exchange his
merchandise without let or hindrance from the other, how the sort of
sanctuary thus provided was never violated either by Algerine or
Spaniard, but each was free to come and go as he pleased, etc., and this
did somewhat reassure us, though we had all been more content to see our
destination on the crest of a high hill.

From this point we came in less than half an hour to Santa Pola, a small
village, but very bustling, for here the cart-road from Alicante ends,
all transport of commodities betwixt this and Elche being done on mules;
so here great commotion of carriers setting down and taking up
merchandise, and the way choked with carts and mules and a very babel of
tongues, there being Moors here as well as Spaniards, and all shouting
their highest to be the better understood of each other. These were the
first Moors we had seen, but they did not encourage us with great hopes
of more intimate acquaintance, wearing nothing but a kind of long,
ragged shirt to their heels, with a hood for their heads in place of a
hat, and all mighty foul with grease and dirt.

Being astir betimes the next morning, we reached Elche before midday,
and here we seemed to be in another world, for this region is no more
like Spain than Spain is like our own country. Entering the forest, we
found ourselves encompassed on all sides by prodigious high palm trees,
which hitherto we had seen only singly here and there, cultivated as
curiosities. And noble trees they are, standing eighty to a hundred feet
high, with never a branch, but only a great spreading crown of leaves,
with strings of dates hanging down from their midst. Beneath, in marshy
places, grew sugar-canes as high as any haystack; and elsewhere were
patches of rice, which grows like corn with us, but thrives well in the
shade, curiously watered by artificial streams of water. And for hedges
to their property, these Moors have agaves, with great spiky leaves
which no man can penetrate, and other strange plants, whereof I will
mention only one, they call the fig of Barbary, which is no fig at all,
but a thing having large, fleshy leaves, growing one out of the other,
with fruit and flower sprouting out of the edges, and all monstrous
prickly. To garnish and beautify this formidable defence, nature had
cast over all a network of creeping herbs with most extraordinary
flowers, delightful both to see and smell, but why so prickly, no man
can say.

"Surely, this must be paradise," cries Moll, staying to look around her.

And we were of the same thinking, until we came to the town, which, as I
have said, lies in the midst of this forest, and then all our hopes and
expectations were dashed to the ground. For we had looked to find a city
in keeping with these surroundings,--of fairy palaces and stately
mansions; in place whereof was nought but a wilderness of mean, low,
squalid houses, with meandering, ill-paved alleys, and all past
everything for unsavoury smells,--heaps of refuse lying before every
door, stark naked brats of children screaming everywhere, and a pack of
famished dogs snapping at our heels.

Don Sanchez leads the way, we following, with rueful looks one at the
other, till we reach the market-place, and there he takes us into a
house of entertainment, where a dozen Moors are squatting on their
haunches in groups about sundry bowls of a smoking mess, called
cuscusson, which is a kind of paste with a little butter in it and a
store of spices. Their manner of eating it is simple enough: each man
dips his hand in the pot, takes out a handful, and dances it about till
it is fashioned into a ball, and then he eats it with all the gusto in
the world. For our repast we were served with a joint of roast mutton,
and this being cut up, we had to take up in our hands and eat like any
savages,--their religion denying these Moors anything but the bare
necessities of life. Also, their law forbids the drinking of wine, which
did most upset Jack Dawson, he having for drink with his meat nothing
but the choice of water and sour milk; but which he liked least I know
not, for he would touch neither, saying he would rather go dry any day
than be poisoned with such liquor.

Whilst we were at our meal, a good many Moors came in to stare at us, as
at a raree show, and especially at Moll, whose bright clothes and loose
hair excited their curiosity, for their women do rarely go abroad,
except they be old, and wear only long dirty white robes, muffling the
lower part of their faces. None of them smiled, and it is noticeable
that these people, like our own Don, do never laugh, taking such
demonstration as a sign of weak understanding and foolishness, but
watching all our actions very intently. And presently an old Moor, with
a white beard and more cleanly dressed than the rest, pushing the crowd
aside to see what was forward, recognised Don Sanchez, who at once rose
to his feet; we, not to be behind him in good manners, rising also.

"May Baba," says the old Moor; and repeating this phrase thrice (which
is a sure sign of hearty welcome), he claps the Don's hand, without
shaking it, and lays his own upon his breast, the Don doing likewise.
Then Don Sanchez, introducing us as we understood by his gestures, the
old Moor bends his head gravely, putting his right hand first to his
heart, next to his forehead, and then kissing the two foremost fingers
laid across his lips, we replying as best we could with a bowing and
scraping. These formalities concluded, the Don and the old Moor walk
apart, and we squat down again to our mutton bones.

After a lengthy discussion the old Moor goes, and Don Sanchez, having
paid the reckoning, leads us out of the town by many crooked alleys and
cross-passages; he speaking never a word, and we asking no questions,
but marvelling exceedingly what is to happen next. And, following a wall
overhung by great palms, we turn a corner, and find there our old Moor
standing beside an open door with a key in his hand. The old Moor gives
the key into Don Sanchez's hand, and with a very formal salutation,
leaves us.

Then following the Don through the doorway, we find ourselves in a
spacious garden, but quite wild for neglect; flower and weed and fruit
all mingling madly together, but very beautiful to my eye, nevertheless,
for the abundance of colour, the richness of the vegetables, and the
graceful forms of the adjacent palms.

A house stood in the midst of this wilderness, and thither Don Sanchez
picked his way, we at his heels still too amazed to speak. Beside the
house was a well with a little wall about it, and seating himself on
this, Don Sanchez opens his lips for the first time.

"My friend, Sidi ben Ahmed, has offered me the use of this place as long
as we choose to stay here," says he. "Go look in the house and tell me
if you care to live in it for a year."

CHAPTER XII.

_How Don Sanchez very honestly offers to free us of our bargain if we
will; but we will not._

The house, like nearly all Moorish houses of this class, was simply one
large and lofty room, with a domed ceiling built of very thick masonry,
to resist the heat of the sun. There was neither window nor chimney, the
door serving to admit light and air, and let out the smoke if a fire
were lighted within. One half of this chamber was dug out to a depth of
a couple of feet, for the accommodation of cattle (the litter being
thrown into the hollow as it is needed, and nought removed till it
reaches the level of the other floor), and above this, about eight feet
from the ground and four from the roof, was a kind of shelf (the breadth
and length of that half), for the storage of fodder and a sleeping-place
for the inhabitants, with no kind of partition, or any issue for the
foul air from the cattle below.

"Are we to live a year in this hutch?" asks Moll, in affright.

"Have done with your chatter, Moll!" answers Jack, testily. "Don't you
see I'm a-thinking? Heaven knows there's enough to swallow without any
bugbears of your raising."

With that, having finished his inspection of the interior, he goes out
and looks at it outside.

"Well," says Don Sanchez, "what think you of the house?"

"Why, Senor, 'tis no worse as I can see than any other in these parts,
and hath this advantage, which they have not, of being in a sweet air.
With a bit of contrivance we could make a shift to live here well
enough. We should not do amiss neither for furniture, seeing that 'tis
the custom of the country to eat off the floor and sit upon nothing. A
pot to cook victuals in is about all we need in that way. But how we are
to get anything to cook in it is one mystery, and" (clacking his tongue)
"what we are going to drink is another, neither of which I can fathom.
For, look you, Senor, if one may judge of men's characters by their
faces or of their means by their habitations, we may dance our legs off
ere ever these Moors will bestow a penny piece upon us, and as for their
sour milk, I'd as lief drink hemlock, and liefer. Now, if this town had
been as we counted on, like Barcelona, all had gone as merry as a
marriage bell, for then might we have gained enough to keep us in
jollity as long as you please; but here, if we die not of the colicks in
a week, 'twill be to perish of starvation in a fortnight. What say you,
Kit?"

I was forced to admit that I had never seen a town less likely to afford
a subsistence than this.

Then Don Sanchez, having heard us with great patience, and waited a
minute to see if we could raise any further objections, answers us in
measured tones.

"I doubt not," says he, "that with a little ingenuity you may make the
house habitable and this wilderness agreeable. My friend, Sidi ben
Ahmed, has offered to provide us with what commodities are necessary to
that end. I agree with you that it would be impossible to earn the
meanest livelihood here by dancing; it would not be advisable if we
could. For that reason, my knowledge of various tongues making me very
serviceable to Sidi ben Ahmed (who is the most considerable merchant of
this town), I have accepted an office in his house. This will enable me
to keep my engagement with you. You will live at my charge, as I
promised, and you shall want for nothing in reason. If the Moors drink
no wine themselves, they make excellent for those who will, and you
shall not be stinted in that particular."

"Come, this sounds fair enough," cries Dawson. "But pray, Senor, are we
to do nothing for our keep?"

"Nothing beyond what we came here to do," replies he, with a meaning
glance at Moll.

"What!" cries poor Moll, in pain. "We are to dance no more!"

The Don shook his head gravely; and, remembering the jolly, vagabond,
careless, adventurous life we had led these past two months and more,
with a thousand pleasant incidents of our happy junketings, we were all
downcast at the prospect of living in this place--though a paradise--for
a year without change.

"Though I promised you no more than I offer," says the Don, "yet if this
prospect displease you, we will cry quits and part here. Nay," adds he,
taking a purse from his pocket, "I will give you the means to return to
Alicante, where you may live as better pleases you."

It seemed to me that there was an unfeigned carelessness in his manner,
as if he would as lief as not throw up this hazardous enterprise for
some other more sure undertaking. And, indeed, I believe he was then
balancing another alternative in his mind.

At this generous offer Moll dashed away the tears that had sprung to her
eyes, brightening up wonderfully, but then, casting her eyes upon the
Don, her face fell again as at the thought of leaving him. For we all
admired him, and she prodigiously, for his great reserve and many good
qualities which commanded respect, and this feeling was tinged in her
case, I believe, with a kind of growing affection.

Seeing this sentiment in her eyes, the Don was clearly touched by it,
and so, laying his hand gently on her shoulder, he says:

"My poor child, remember you the ugly old women we saw dancing at
Barcelona? They were not more than forty; what will they be like in a
few years? Who will tolerate them? who love them? Is that the end you
choose for your own life--that the estate to which our little princess
shall fall?"

"No, no, no!" cries she, in a passion, clenching her little hands and
throwing up her head in disdain.

"And no, no, no, say I," cries Dawson. "Were our case ten times as bad,
I'd not go back from my word. As it is, we are not to be pitied, and I
warrant ere long we make ourselves to be envied. Come, Kit, rouse you
out of your lethargies, and let us consult how we may improve our
condition here; and do you, Senor, pray order us a little of that same
excellent wine you spoke of, if it be but a pint, when you feel disposed
that way."

The Don inclined his head, but lingered, talking to Moll very gravely,
and yet tenderly, for some while, Dawson and I going into the house to
see what we could make of it; and then, telling us we should see him no
more till the next day, he left us. But for some time after he was gone
Moll sat on the side of the well, very pensive and wistful, as one to
whom the future was opened for the first time.

Anon comes a banging at our garden gate, which Moll had closed behind
the Don; and, going to it, we find a Moorish boy with a barrow charged
with many things. We could not understand a word he said, but Dawson
decided these chattels were sent us by the Don, by perceiving a huge
hogskin of wine, for which he thanked God and Don Sanchez an hundred
times over. So these commodities we carried up to the house, marvelling
greatly at the Don's forethought and generosity, for here were a score
of things over and above those we had already found ourselves lacking;
namely, earthen pipkins and wooden vessels, a bag of charcoal, a box of
carpenters' tools (which did greatly like Dawson, he having been bred a
carpenter in his youth), instruments for gardening (to my pleasure, as I
have ever had a taste for such employment), some very fine Moorish
blankets, etc. So when the barrow was discharged, Dawson gives the lad
some rials out of his pocket, which pleased him also mightily.

Then, first of all, Dawson unties the leg of the hogskin, and draws off
a quart of wine, very carefully securing the leg after, and this we
drank to our great refreshment; and next Moll, being awoke from her
dreams and eager to be doing, sets herself to sort out our goods, such
as belong to us (as tools, etc.), on one side, and such as belong to her
(as pipkins and the rest) on the other. Leaving her to this employment,
Dawson and I, armed with a knife and bagging hook, betake ourselves to a
great store of canes stacked in one corner of the garden, and sorting
out those most proper to our purpose, we lopped them all of an equal
length, and shouldering as many as we could carried them up to our
house. Here we found Moll mighty jubilant in having got her work done,
and admirably she had done it, to be sure. For, having found a long
recess in the wall, she had brushed it out clean with a whisp of herbs,
and stored up her crocks according to their size, very artificial, with
a dish of oranges plucked from the tree at our door on one side, and a
dish of almonds on the other, a pipkin standing betwixt 'em with a
handsome posey of roses in it. She had spread a mat on the floor, and
folded up our fine blankets to serve for cushions; and all that did not
belong to her she had bundled out of sight into that hollowed side I
have mentioned as being intended for cattle.

After we had sufficiently admired the performance, she told us she had a
mind to give us a supper of broth. "But," says she, "the Don has
forgotten that we must eat, and hath sent us neither bread nor flesh nor
salt."

This put us to a stumble, for how to get these things we knew not; but
Moll declared she would get all she needed if we could only find the
money.

"Why, how?" asks Jack. "You know not their gibberish."

"That may be," answers she, "but I warrant the same language that bought
me this petticoat will get us a supper."

So we gave her what money we had, and she went off a-marketing, with as
much confidence as if she were a born Barbary Moor. Then Jack falls to
thanking God for blessing him with such a daughter, at the same time
taking no small credit to himself for having bred her to such
perfection, and in the midst of his encomiums, being down in the hollow
searching for his hammer, he cries:

"Plague take the careless baggage! she has spilled all our nails, and
here's an hour's work to pick 'em up!"

This accident was repaired, however, and Moll's transgression forgotten
when she returned with an old woman carrying her purchases. Then were we
forced to admire her skill in this business, for she had bought all that
was needful for a couple of meals, and yet had spent but half our money.
Now arose the difficult question how to make a fire, and this Jack left
us to settle by our own devices, he returning to his own occupation.
Moll resolved we should do our cooking outside the house, so here we
built up a kind of grate with stones; and, contriving to strike a spark
with the back of a jack-knife and a stone, upon a heap of dried leaves,
we presently blew up a fine flame, and feeding this with the ends of
cane we had cut and some charcoal, we at last got a royal fire on which
to set our pot of mutton. And into this pot we put rice and a multitude
of herbs from the garden, which by the taste we thought might serve to
make a savoury mess. And, indeed, when it began to boil, the odour was
so agreeable that we would have Jack come out to smell it. And he having
praised it very highly, we in return went in to look at his handiwork
and praise that. This we could do very heartily and without hypocrisy,
for he had worked well and made a rare good job, having built a very
seemly partition across the room, by nailing of the canes
perpendicularly to that kind of floor that hung over the hollowed
portion, thus making us now three rooms out of one. At one end he had
left an opening to enter the cavity below and the floor above by the
little ladder that stood there, and these canes were set not so close
together but that air and light could pass betwixt them, and yet from
the outer side no eye could see within, which was very commodious. Also
upon the floor above, he had found sundry bundles of soft dried leaves,
and these, opened out upon the surface of both chambers, made a very
sweet, convenient bed upon which to lie. Then Dawson offering Moll her
choice, she took the upper floor for her chamber, leaving us two the
lower; and so, it being near sundown by this time, we to our supper in
the sweet, cool air of evening, all mightily content with one another,
and not less satisfied with our stew, which was indeed most savoury and
palatable. This done, we took a turn round our little domain, admiring
the many strange and wonderful things that grew there (especially the
figs, which, though yet green, were wondrous pleasant to eat); and I
laying out my plans for the morrow, how to get this wilderness into
order, tear out the worthless herbs, dig the soil, etc., Dawson's
thoughts running on the building of an outhouse for the accommodation of
our wine, tools, and such like, and Moll meditating on dishes to give us
for our repasts. And at length, when these divers subjects were no more
to be discussed, we turned into our dormitories, and fell asleep mighty
tired, but as happy as princes.

CHAPTER XIII.

_A brief summary of those twelve months we spent at Elche._

The surprising activity with which we attacked our domestic business at
Elche lasted about two days and a half,--Dawson labouring at his shed, I
at the cultivation of the garden, and Moll quitting her cooking and
household affairs, as occasion permitted, to lend a helping hand first
to her father and then to me. And as man, when this fever of enterprise
is upon him, must for ever be seeking to add to his cares, we persuaded
Don Sanchez to let us have two she-goats to stall in the shed and
consume our waste herbage, that we might have milk and get butter, which
they do in these parts by shaking the cream in a skin bag (a method that
seems simple enough till you have been shaking the bag for twenty
minutes in vain on a sultry morning) without cost. But the novelty of
the thing wearing off, our eagerness rapidly subsided, and so about the
third day (as I say), the heat being prodigious, we toiled with no
spirit at all.

Dawson was the first to speak his mind. Says he, coming to me whilst I
was still sweating over my shovel:

"I've done it, but hang me if I do more. There's a good piece of work
worth thirty shillings of any man's money, but who'll give me a thank ye
for it when we leave here next year?"

And then he can find nothing better to do than fall a-commenting on my
labours, saying there was but precious little to show for my efforts,
that had he been in my place he would have ordered matters otherwise,
and begun digging t'other end, wagering that I should give up my job
before it was quarter done, etc., all which was mighty discouraging and
the more unpleasant because I felt there was a good deal of truth in
what he said.

Consequently, I felt a certain malicious enjoyment the next morning upon
finding that the goats had burst out one side of his famous shed, and
got loose into the garden, which enabled me to wonder that two such
feeble creatures could undo such a good thirty shillings' worth of work,
etc. But ere I was done galling him, I myself was mortified exceedingly
to find these mischievous brutes had torn up all the plants I had set by
the trees in the shade as worthy of cultivation, which gave Jack a
chance for jibing at me. But that which embittered us as much as
anything was to have Moll holding her sides for laughter at our attempts
to catch these two devilish goats, which to our cost we found were not
so feeble, after all; for getting one up in a corner, she raises herself
up on her hind legs and brings her skull down with such a smack on my
knee that I truly thought she had broke my cramp-bone, whilst t'other,
taking Dawson in the ankles with her horns, as he was reaching forward
to lay hold of her, lay him sprawling in our little stream of water. Nor
do I think we should ever have captured them, but that, giving over our
endeavours from sheer fatigue, they of their own accord sauntered into
the shed for shelter from the sun, where Moll clapt to the door upon
them, and set her back against the gap in the side, until her father
came with a hammer and some stout nails to secure the planks. So for the
rest of that day Jack and I lay on our backs in the shade, doing
nothing, but exceedingly sore one against the other for these
mischances.

But our heart burnings ended not there; for coming in to supper at
sundown, Moll has nothing to offer us but dry bread and a dish of dates,
which, though it be the common supper of the Moors in this place, was
little enough to our satisfaction, as Dawson told her in pretty round
terms, asking her what she was good for if not to give us a meal fit for
Christians, etc., and stating very explicitly what he would have her
prepare for our dinner next day. Moll takes her upbraiding very humbly
(which was ever a bad sign), and promises to be more careful of our
comfort in the future. And so ended that day.

The next morning Dawson and I make no attempt at work, but after
breakfast, by common accord, stretch us out under the palms to meditate;
and there about half past ten, Don Sanchez, coming round to pay us a
visit, finds us both sound asleep. A sudden exclamation from him aroused
us, and as we stumbled to our feet, staring about us, we perceived Moll
coming from the house, but so disfigured with smuts of charcoal all over
her face and hands, we scarce knew her.

"God's mercy!" cries the Don. "What on earth have you been doing,
child?"

To which Moll replies with a curtsey:

"I am learning to be a cook-wench, Senor, at my father's desire."

"You are here," answers the Don, with a frown, "to learn to be a lady.
If a cook-wench is necessary, you shall have one" (this to us), "and
anything else that my means may afford. You will do well to write me a
list of your requirements; but observe," adds he, turning on his heel,
"we may have to stay here another twelvemonth, if my economies are not
sufficient by the end of the first year to take us hence."

This hint brought us to our senses very quickly, and overtaking him ere
he reached our garden gate, Dawson and I assured the Don we had no need
of any servant, and would be careful that Moll henceforth did no menial
office; that we would tax his generosity no more than we could help,
etc., to our great humiliation when we came to reflect on our conduct.

Thenceforth Dawson charged himself with the internal economy of the
house, and I with that part which concerned the custody and care of the
goats, the cultivation of pot-herbs and with such instruction of Moll in
the Italian tongue as I could command. But to tell the truth, we neither
of us did one stroke of work beyond what was absolutely necessary, and
especially Dawson, being past everything for indolence, did so order his
part that from having two dishes of flesh a day, we came, ere long, to
getting but one mess a week; he forcing himself and us to be content
with dates and bread for our repasts, rather than give himself the
trouble of boiling a pot. Beyond browsing my goats, drawing their milk
(the making of butter I quickly renounced), and watering my garden night
and morn (which is done by throwing water from the little stream
broadcast with a shovel on either side), I did no more than Dawson, but
joined him in yawning the day away, for which my sole excuse is the
great heat of this region, which doth beget most slothful humours in
those matured in cooler climes.

With Moll, however, the case was otherwise; for she, being young and of
an exceeding vivacious, active disposition, must for ever be doing of
something, and lucky for us when it was not some mischievous trick at
our expense--as letting the goats loose, shaking lemons down on our
heads as we lay asleep beneath it, and the like. Being greatly smitten
with the appearance of the Moorish women (who, though they are not
permitted to wander about at will like our women, are yet suffered to
fetch water from the public fountains), she surprised us one morning by
coming forth dressed in their mode. And this dress, which seems to be
nought but a long sheet wound loosely twice or thrice about the body,
buckled on the shoulder, with holes for the arms to be put through in
the manner of the old Greeks, became her surprisingly; and we noticed
then for the first time that her arms were rounder and fuller than when
we had last seen them bare. Then, to get the graceful, noble bearing of
the Moors, she practised day after day carrying a pitcher of water on
her head as they do, until she could do this with perfect ease and
sureness. In this habit the Don, who was mightily pleased with her
looks, took her to the house of his friend and employer, Sidi ben Ahmed,
where she ingratiated herself so greatly with the women of his household
that they would have her come to them again the next day, and after that
the next,--indeed, thenceforth she spent far more of her time with these
new friends than with us. And here, from the necessity of making herself
understood, together with an excellent memory and a natural aptitude,
she learned to speak the Moorish tongue in a marvellously short space of
time. Dawson and I were frequently asked to accompany Moll, and we went
twice to this house, which, though nothing at all to look at outside,
was very magnificently furnished within, and the entertainment most
noble. But Lord! 'twas the most tedious, wearisome business for us, who
could make out never a word of the civil speeches offered us without the
aid of Don Sanchez and Moll, and then could think of no witty response,
but could only sit there grinning like Gog and Magog. Still, it gave us
vast pleasure to see how Moll carried herself with this company, talking
as freely as they, yet holding herself with the dignity of an equal, and
delighting all by her vivacity and sly, pretty ways.

[Illustration: "SHE PRACTISED DAY AFTER DAY BY CARRYING A PITCHER OF
WATER ON HER HEAD."]

I think no country in Europe can be richer than this Elche in fruits and
vegetation, more beautiful in its surrounding aspects of plain and
mountain, more blessed with constant, glorious sunlight; and the effect
of these charms upon the quick, receptive spirit of our Molly was like a
gentle May upon a nightingale, so that the days were all too short for
her enjoyment, and she must need vent her happiness in song; but on us
they made no more impression than on two owls in a tower, nay, if
anything they did add to that weariness which arose from our lack of
occupation. For here was no contrast in our lives, one day being as like
another as two peas in a pod, and having no sort of adversities to give
savour to our ease, we found existence the most flat, insipid, dull
thing possible. I remember how, on Christmas day, Dawson did cry out
against the warm sunshine as a thing contrary to nature, wishing he
might stand up to his knees in snow in a whistling wind, and taking up
the crock Moll had filled with roses (which here bloom more fully in the
depth of winter than with us in the height of summer), he flung it out
of the door with a curse for an unchristian thing to have in the house
on such a day.

As soon as the year had turned, we began to count the days to our
departure, and thenceforth we could think of nought but what we would do
with our fortune when we got it; and, the evenings being long, we would
set the bag of wine betwixt us after our supper of dates, and sit there
for hours discussing our several projects. Moll being with us (for in
these parts no womankind may be abroad after sundown), she would take
part in these debates with as much gusto as we. For though she was not
wearied of her life here as we were, yet she was possessed of a very
stirring spirit of adventure, and her quick imagination furnished
endless visions of lively pleasures and sumptuous living. We agreed that
we would live together, and share everything in common as one family,
but not in such an outlandish spot as Chislehurst. That estate we would
have nothing to do with; but, selling it at once, have in its place two
houses,--one city house in the Cheap, and a country house not further
from town than Bednal Green, or Clerkenwell at the outside, to the end
that when we were fatigued with the pleasures of the town, we might, by
an easy journey, resort to the tranquillity of rural life, Dawson
declaring what wines he would have laid down in our cellars, I what
books should furnish our library, and Moll what dresses she would wear
(not less than one for every month of the year), what coaches and horses
we should keep, what liveries our servants should wear, what
entertainments we would give, and so forth. Don Sanchez was not excluded
from our deliberations; indeed, he encouraged us greatly by approving of
all our plans, only stipulating that we would guard one room for him in
each of our houses, that he might feel at home in our society whenever
he chanced to be in our neighbourhood. In all these arguments, there was
never one word of question from any of us as to the honesty of our
design. We had settled that, once and for all, before starting on this
expedition; and since then, little by little, we had come to regard the
Godwin estate as a natural gift, as freely to be taken as a blackberry
from the hedge. Nay, I believe Dawson and I would have contested our
right to it by reason of the pains we were taking to possess it.

And now, being in the month of June, and our year of exile (as it liked
us to call it) nigh at an end, Dawson one night put the question to Don
Sanchez, which had kept us fluttering in painful suspense these past six
months, whether he had saved sufficient by his labours, to enable us to
return to England ere long.

"Yes," says he, gravely, at which we did all heave one long sigh of
relief, "I learn that a convoy of English ships is about to sail from
Alicante in the beginning of July, and if we are happy enough to find a
favourable opportunity, we will certainly embark in one of them."

"Pray, Senor," says I, "what may that opportunity be; for 'tis but two
days' march hence to Alicante, and we may do it with a light foot in
one."

"The opportunity I speak of," answers he, "is the arrival, from Algeria,
of a company of pirates, whose good service I hope to engage in putting
us aboard an English ship under a flag of truce as redeemed slaves from
Barbary."

"Pirates!" cry we, in a low breath.

"What, Senor!" adds Dawson, "are we to trust ourselves to the mercy and
honesty of Barbary pirates on the open sea?"

"I would rather trust to their honesty," answers the Don, dropping his
voice that he might not be heard by Moll, who was leading home the
goats, "than to the mercy of an English judge, if we should be brought
to trial with insufficient evidence to support our story."

Jack and I stared at each other aghast at this talk of trial, which had
never once entered into our reckoning of probabilities.

"If I know aught of my fellow-men," continues the Don, surely and slow,
"that grasping steward will not yield up his trust before he has made
searching enquiry into Moll's claim, act she her part never so well. We
cannot refuse to give him the name of the ship that brought us home,
and, learning that we embarked at Alicante, jealous suspicion may lead
him to seek further information there; with what result?"

"Why, we may be blown with a vengeance, if he come ferreting so nigh as
that," says Dawson, "and we are like to rot in gaol for our pains."

"You may choose to run that risk; I will not," says the Don.

"Nor I either," says Dawson, "and God forgive me for overlooking such a
peril to my Moll. But, do tell me plainly, Senor, granting these pirates
be the most honest thieves in the world, is there no other risk to
fear?"

The Don hunched his shoulders.

"Life itself is a game," says he, "in which the meanest stroke may not
be won without some risk; but, played as I direct, the odds are in our
favour. Picked up at sea from an Algerine boat, who shall deny our story
when the evidence against us lies there" (laying his hand out towards
the south), "where no man in England dare venture to seek it?"

"Why, to be sure," says Dawson; "that way all hangs together to a
nicety. For only a wizard could dream of coming hither for our undoing."

"For the rest," continues the Don, thoughtfully, "there is little to
fear. Judith Godwin has eyes the colour of Moll's, and in all else Simon
must expect to find a change since he last saw his master's daughter.
They were in Italy three years. That would make Judith a lisping child
when she left England. He must look to find her altered. Why," adds he,
in a more gentle voice, as if moved by some inner feeling of affection
and admiration, nodding towards Moll, "see how she has changed in this
little while. I should not know her for the raw, half-starved spindle of
a thing she was when I saw her first playing in the barn at Tottenham
Cross."

Looking at her now (browsing the goats amongst my most cherished herbs),
I was struck also by this fact, which, living with her day by day, had
slipped my observation somewhat. She was no longer a gaunt, ungainly
child, but a young woman, well proportioned, with a rounded cheek and
chin, brown tinted by the sun, and, to my mind, more beautiful than any
of their vaunted Moorish women. But, indeed, in this country all things
do mature quickly; and 'twas less surprising in her case because her
growth had been checked before by privation and hardship, whereas since
our coming hither it had been aided by easy circumstances and good
living.

CHAPTER XIV.

_Of our coming to London (with incidents by the way), and of the great
address whereby Moll confounds Simon, the steward._

On the third day of July, all things falling in pat with the Don's
design, we bade farewell to Elche, Dawson and I with no sort of regret,
but Moll in tears at parting from those friends she had grown to love
very heartily. And these friends would each have her take away something
for a keepsake, such as rings to wear on her arms and on her ankles (as
is the Moorish fashion), silk shawls, etc., so that she had quite a
large present of finery to carry away; but we had nothing whatever but
the clothes we stood in, and they of the scantiest, being simply long
shirts and "bernouses" such as common Moors wear. For the wise Don would
let us take nought that might betray our sojourn in Spain, making us
even change our boots for wooden sandals, he himself being arrayed no
better than we. Nor was this the only change insisted on by our
governor; for on Dawson bidding Moll in a surly tone to give over a
shedding of tears, Don Sanchez turns upon him, and says he:

"It is time to rehearse the parts we are to play. From this day forth
your daughter is Mistress Judith Godwin, you are Captain Robert Evans,
and you" (to me), "Mr. Hopkins, the merchant. Let us each play our part
with care, that we do not betray ourselves by a slip in a moment of
unforeseen danger."

"You are in the right, Senor," answers Jack, "for I doubt it must be a
hard task to forget that Mistress Judith is my daughter, as it is for a
loving father to hold from chiding of his own flesh and blood; so I pray
you, Madam" (to Moll), "bear that in mind and vex me no more."

We lay this lesson seriously to heart, Dawson and I, for the Don's hint
that we might end our career in gaol did still rankle woundily in our
minds. And so very soberly we went out of the forest of Elche in the
night on mules lent us by Sidi ben Ahmed, with a long cavalcade of mules
charged with merchandise for embarking on board the pirates' vessel, and
an escort of some half-dozen fierce-looking corsairs armed with long
firelocks and a great store of awesome crooked knives stuck in their
waist-cloths.

After journeying across the plain, we came about midday to the seaboard,
and there we spied, lying in a sheltered bay, a long galley with three
masts, each dressed with a single cross-spar for carrying a
leg-of-mutton sail, and on the shore a couple of ship's boats with a
company of men waiting to transport our goods and us aboard. And here
our hearts quaked a bit at the thought of trusting ourselves in the
hands of these same murderous-looking pirates. Nevertheless, when our
time came we got us into their boat, recommending ourselves very
heartily to God's mercy, and so were rowed out to the galley, where we
were very civilly received by an old Moor with a white beard, who seemed
well acquainted with Don Sanchez. Then the merchandise being all aboard,
and the anchor up, the men went to their oars, a dozen of each side, and
rowed us out of the bay until, catching a little wind of air, the sails
were run up, and we put out to sea very bravely.

"Senor," says Dawson, "I know not how I am to play this part of a
sea-captain when we are sent on board an English ship, for if they ask
me any questions on this business of navigating, I am done for a
certainty."

"Rest easy on that score, Evans," replies the Don. "I will answer for
you, for I see very clearly by your complexion that you will soon be
past answering them yourself."

And this forecast was quickly verified; for ere the galley had dipped a
dozen times to the waves, poor Dawson was laid low with a most horrid
sickness like any dying man.

By sundown we sighted the island of Maggiore, and in the roads there we
cast anchor for the night, setting sail again at daybreak; and in this
latitude we beat up and down a day and a night without seeing any sail,
but on the morning of the third day a fleet of five big ships appeared
to the eastward, and shifting our course we bore down upon them with
amazing swiftness. Then when we were near enough to the foremast to see
her English flag and the men aboard standing to their deck guns for a
defence, our old Moor fires a gun in the air, takes in his sails, and
runs up a great white flag for a sign of peace. And now with shrewd
haste a boat was lowered, and we were set in it with a pair of oars, and
the old pirate bidding us farewell in his tongue, clapt on all sail and
stood out before the wind, leaving us there to shift for ourselves. Don
Sanchez took one oar, and I t'other,--Dawson lying in the bottom and not
able to move a hand to save his life,--and Moll held the tiller, and so
we pulled with all our force, crying out now and then for fear we should
not be seen, till by God's providence we came alongside the Talbot of
London, and were presently hoisted aboard without mishap. Then the
captain of the Talbot and his officers gathering about us were mighty
curious to know our story, and Don Sanchez very briefly told how we had
gone in the Red Rose of Bristol to redeem two ladies from slavery; how
we had found but one of these ladies living (at this Moll buries her
face in her hands as if stricken with grief); how, on the eve of our
departure, some of our crew in a drunken frolic had drowned a Turk of
Alger, for which we were condemned by their court to pay an indemnity
far and away beyond our means; how they then made this a pretext to
seize our things, though we were properly furnished with the Duke's
pass, and hold our men in bond; and how having plundered us of all we
had, and seeing there was no more to be got, they did offer us our
freedom for a written quittance of all they had taken for their
justification if ever they should be brought to court; and finally, how,
accepting of these conditions, we were shipped aboard their galley with
nothing in the world but a few trifles, begged by Mistress Judith in
remembrance of her mother.

This story was accepted without any demur; nay, Captain Ballcock, being
one of those men who must ever appear to know all things, supported it
in many doubtful particulars, saying that he remembered the Rose of
Bristol quite well; that he himself had seen a whole ship's crew sold
into slavery for no greater offence than breaking a mosque window; that
the Duke's pass counted for nothing with these Turks; that he knew the
galley we were brought in as well as he knew Paul's Church, having
chased it a dozen times, yet never got within gunshot for her swift
sailing, etc., which did much content us to hear.

But the officers were mighty curious to know what ailed Captain Robert
Evans (meaning Dawson), fearing he might be ill of the plague; however,
on the Don's vowing that he was only sick of a surfeit, Captain Ballcock
declared he had guessed it the moment he clapt eyes on him, as he
himself had been taken of the same complaint with only eating a dish of
pease pudding. Nevertheless, he ordered the sick man to be laid in a
part of the ship furthest from his quarters, and so great was the dread
of pestilence aboard that (as his sickness continued) not a soul would
venture near him during the whole voyage except ourselves, which also
fell in very well with our wishes. And so after a fairly prosperous
voyage we came up the Thames to Chatham, the third day of August.

We had been provided with some rough seamen's clothes for our better
covering on the voyage; but now, being landed, and lodged in the Crown
inn at Chatham, Don Sanchez would have the captain take them all back.

"But," says he, "if you will do us yet another favour, Captain, will you
suffer one of your men to carry a letter to Mistress Godwin's steward at
Chislehurst, that he may come hither to relieve us from our present
straits?"

"Aye," answers he, "I will take the letter gladly, myself; for nothing
pleases me better than a ramble in the country where I was born and
bred."

So Moll writes a letter at once to Simon, bidding him come at once to
her relief; and Captain Ballcock, after carefully enquiring his way to
this place he knew so well (as he would have us believe), starts off
with it, accompanied by his boatswain, a good-natured kind of
lick-spittle, who never failed to back up his captain's assertions,
which again was to our great advantage; for Simon would thus learn our
story from his lips, and find no room to doubt its veracity.

As soon as these two were out of the house, Dawson, who had been carried
from the ship and laid in bed, though as hale since we passed the
Godwins as ever he was in his life before, sprang up, and declared he
would go to bed no more, for all the fortunes in the world, till he had
supped on roast pork and onions,--this being a dish he greatly loved,
but not to be had at Elche, because the Moors by their religion forbid
the use of swine's flesh,--and seeing him very determined on this head,
Don Sanchez ordered a leg of pork to be served in our chamber, whereof
Dawson did eat such a prodigious quantity, and drank therewith such a
vast quantity of strong ale (which he protested was the only liquor an
Englishman could drink with any satisfaction), that in the night he was
seized with most severe cramp in his stomach. This gave us the occasion
to send for a doctor in the morning, who, learning that Jack had been
ill ever since we left Barbary, and not understanding his present
complaint, pulled a very long face, and, declaring his case was very
critical, bled him copiously, forbade him to leave his bed for another
fortnight, and sent him in half a dozen bottles of physic. About midday
he returns, and, finding his patient no better, administers a bolus; and
while we are all standing about the bed, and Dawson the colour of death,
and groaning, betwixt the nausea of the drug he had swallowed and the
cramp in his inwards, in comes our Captain Ballcock and the little
steward.

"There!" cries he, turning on Simon, "did not I tell you that my old
friend Evans lay at death's door with the treatment he hath received of
these Barbary pirates? Now will you be putting us off with your doubts
and your questionings? Shall I have up my ship's company to testify to
the truth of my history? Look you, Madam," (to Moll), "we had all the
trouble in the world to make this steward of yours do your bidding; but
he should have come though we had to bring him by the neck and heels,
and a pox to him--saving your presence."

"But this is not Simon," says Moll, with a pretty air of innocence. "I
seem to remember Simon a bigger man than he."

"You must consider, Madam," says Don Sanchez, "that then you were very
small, scarce higher than his waist, maybe, and so you would have to
look up into his face."

"I did not think of that. And are you really Simon, who used to scold me
for plucking fruit?"

"Yea, verily," answers he. "Doubt it not, for thou also hast changed
beyond conception. And so it hath come to pass!" he adds, staring round
at us in our Moorish garb like one bewildered. "And thou art my mistress
now" (turning again to Moll).

"Alas!" says she, bowing her head and covering her eyes with her hand.

"Han't I told you so, unbelieving Jew Quaker!" growls Captain Ballcock,
in exasperation. "Why will you plague the unhappy lady with her loss?"

"We will leave Evans to repose," says Moll, brushing her eyes and
turning to the door. "You will save his life, Doctor, for he has given
me mine."

The doctor vowed he would, if bleeding and boluses could make him whole,
and so, leaving him with poor groaning Dawson, we went into the next
chamber. And there Captain Ballcock was for taking his leave; but Moll,
detaining him, says:

"We owe you something more than gratitude--we have put you to much
expense."

"Nay," cries he. "I will take nought for doing a common act of mercy."

"You shall not be denied the joy of generosity," says she, with a sweet
grace. "But you must suffer me to give your ship's company some token of
my gratitude." Then turning to Simon with an air of authority, she says,
"Simon, I have no money."

The poor man fumbled in his pocket, and bringing out a purse, laid it
open, showing some four or five pieces of silver and one of gold, which
he hastily covered with his hand.

"I see you have not enough," says Moll, and taking up a pen she quickly
wrote some words on a piece of paper, signing it "Judith Godwin." Then
showing it to Simon, she says, "You will pay this when it is presented
to you," and therewith she folds it and places it in the captain's hand,
bidding him farewell in a pretty speech.

"A hundred pounds! a hundred pounds!" gasps Simon, under his breath, in
an agony and clutching up his purse to his breast.

"I am astonished," says Moll, returning from the door, and addressing
Simon, with a frown upon her brow, "that you are not better furnished to
supply my wants, knowing by my letter how I stand."

"Mistress," replies he, humbly, "here is all I could raise upon such
sudden notice"--laying his purse before her.

"What is this?" cries she, emptying the contents upon the table. "'Tis
nothing. Here is barely sufficient to pay for our accommodation in this
inn. Where is the money to discharge my debt to these friends who have
lost all in saving me? You were given timely notice of their purpose."

"Prithee, be patient with me, gentle mistress. 'Tis true, I knew of
their intent, but they were to have returned in six months, and when
they came not at the end of the year I did truly give up all for lost;
and so I made a fresh investment of thy fortune, laying it out all in
life bonds and houses, to great worldly advantage, as thou shalt see in
good time. Ere long I may get in some rents--"

"And in the meanwhile are we to stay in this plight--to beg for
charity?" asks Moll, indignantly. "Nay, mistress. Doubtless for your
present wants this kind merchant friend--"

"We have lost all," says I, "Evans his ship, and I the lading in which
all my capital was embarked."

"And I every maravedi I possessed," adds the Don.

"And had they not," cries Moll, "were they possessed now of all they
had, think you that I with an estate, as I am told, of sixty thousand
pounds would add to the debt I owe them by one single penny!"

"If I may speak in your steward's defence, Madam," says I, humbly, "I
would point out that the richest estate is not always readily converted
into money. 'Tis like a rich jewel which the owner, though he be
starving, must hold till he find a market."

"Thee hearest him, mistress," cries Simon, in delight. "A man of
business--a merchant who knows these things. Explain it further, friend,
for thine are words of precious wisdom."

"With landed property the case is even more difficult. Tenants cannot be
forced to pay rent before it is due, nor can their messuages be sold
over their heads. And possibly all your capital is invested in land--"

"Every farthing that could be scraped together," says Simon, "and not a
rood of it but is leased to substantial men. Oh! what excellent
discourse! Proceed further, friend."

"Nevertheless," says I, "there are means of raising money upon credit.
If he live there still, there is a worthy Jew in St. Mary Axe, who upon
certain considerations of interest--"

"Hold, friend," cries Simon. "What art thee thinking of? Wouldst deliver
my simple mistress into the hands of Jew usurers?"

"Not without proper covenants made out by lawyers and attorneys."

"Lawyers, attorneys, and usurers! Heaven have mercy upon us! Verily,
thee wouldst infest us with a pest, and bleed us to death for our cure."

"I will have such relief as I may," says Moll; "so pray, sir, do send
for these lawyers and Jews at once, and the quicker, since my servant
seems more disposed to hinder than to help me."

"Forbear, mistress; for the love of God, forbear!" cries Simon, in an
agony, clasping his hands. "Be not misguided by this foolish merchant,
who hath all to gain and nought to lose by this proceeding. Give me but
a little space, and their claims shall be met, thy desires shall be
satisfied, and yet half of thy estate be saved, which else must be all
devoured betwixt these ruthless money-lenders and lawyers. I can make a
covenant more binding than any attorney, as I have proved again and
again, and" (with a gulp) "if money must be raised at once, I know an
honest, a fairly honest, goldsmith in Lombard Street who will lend at
the market rate."

"These gentlemen," answers Moll, turning to us, "may not choose to wait,
and I will not incommode them for my own convenience."

"Something for our present need we must have, Madam," says the Don, with
a significant glance at his outlandish dress; "but those wants supplied,
_I_ am content to wait."

"And you, sir?" says Moll to me.

"With a hundred or two," says I, taking Don Sanchez's hint, "we may do
very well till Michaelmas."

"Be reasonable, gentlemen," implores Simon, mopping his eyes, which ran
afresh at this demand. "'Tis but some five or six weeks to Michaelmas;
surely fifty pounds--"

"Silence!" cries Moll, with an angry tap of her foot. "Will three
hundred content you, gentlemen? Consider, the wants of our good friend,
Captain Evans, may be more pressing than yours."

"He is a good, honest, simple man, and I think we may answer for his
accepting the conditions we make for ourselves. Then, with some
reasonable guarantee for our future payment--"

"That may be contrived to our common satisfaction, I hope," says Moll,
with a gracious smile. "I owe you half my estate; share my house at
Chislehurst with me till the rest is forthcoming. That will give me yet
a little longer the pleasure of your company. And there, sir," turning
to me, "you can examine my steward's accounts for your own satisfaction,
and counsel me, mayhap, upon the conduct of my affairs, knowing so much
upon matters of business that are incomprehensible to a simple,
inexperienced maid. Then, should you find aught amiss in my steward's
books, anything to shake your confidence in his management, you will, in
justice to your friends, in kindness to me, speak your mind openly, that
instant reformation may be made."

Don Sanchez and I expressed our agreement to this proposal, and Moll,
turning to the poor, unhappy steward, says in her high tone of
authority:

"You hear how this matter is ordered, Simon. Take up that purse for your
own uses. Go into the town and send such tradesmen hither as may supply
us with proper clothing. Then to your goldsmith in Lombard Street and
bring me back six hundred pounds."

"Six--hundred--pounds!" cries he, hardly above his breath, and with a
pause between each word as if to gain strength to speak 'em.

"Six hundred. Three for these gentlemen and three for my own needs; when
that is done, hasten to Chislehurst and prepare my house; and, as you
value my favour, see that nothing is wanting when I come there."

And here, lest it should be thought that Moll could not possibly play
her part so admirably in this business, despite the many secret
instructions given by the longheaded Don, I do protest that I have set
down no more than I recollect, and that without exaggeration. Further,
it must be observed that in our common experience many things happen
which would seem incredible but for the evidence of our senses, and
which no poet would have the hardihood to represent. 'Tis true that in
this, as in other more surprising particulars to follow, Moll did
surpass all common women; but 'tis only such extraordinary persons that
furnish material for any history. And I will add that anything is
possible to one who hath the element of greatness in her composition,
and that it depends merely on the accident of circumstances whether a
Moll Dawson becomes a great saint or a great sinner--a blessing or a
curse to humanity.

CHAPTER XV.

_Lay our hands on six hundred pounds and quarter ourselves in Hurst
Court, but stand in a fair way to be undone by Dawson, his folly._

The next day comes Simon with a bag of six hundred pounds, which he
tells over with infinite care, groaning and mopping his eyes betwixt
each four or five pieces with a most rueful visage, so that it seemed he
was weeping over this great expenditure, and then he goes to prepare the
Court and get servants against Moll's arrival. By the end of the week,
being furnished with suitable clothing and equipment, Moll and Don
Sanchez leave us, though Dawson was now as hale and hearty as ever he
had been, we being persuaded to rest at Chatham yet another week, to
give countenance to Jack's late distemper, and also that we might appear
less like a gang of thieves.

Before going, Don Sanchez warned us that very likely Simon would pay us
a visit suddenly, to satisfy any doubts that might yet crop up in his
suspicious mind; and so, to be prepared for him, I got in a good store
of paper and books, such as a merchant might require in seeking to
reestablish himself in business, and Dawson held himself in readiness to
do his share of this knavish business.

Sure enough, about three days after this, the drawer, who had been
instructed to admit no one to my chamber without my consent, comes up to
say that the little old man in leather, with the weak eyes, would see
me; so I bade him in a high voice bid Mr. Simon step up, and setting
myself before my table of paper, engage in writing a letter (already
half writ), while Dawson slips out into the next room.

"Take a seat, Mr. Steward," says I, when Simon entered, cap in hand, and
casting a very prying, curious look around. "I must keep you a minute or
two"; and so I feign to be mighty busy, and give him scope for
observation.

"Well, sir," says I, finishing my letter with a flourish, and setting it
aside. "How do you fare?"

He raised his hands, and dropped them like so much lead on his knees,
casting up his eyes and giving a doleful shake of his head for a reply.

"Nothing is amiss at the Court, I pray--your lady Mistress Godwin is
well?"

"I know not, friend," says he. "She hath taken my keys, denied me
entrance to her house, and left me no privilege of my office save the
use of the lodge house. Thus am I treated like a faithless servant,
after toiling night and day all these years, and for her advantage,
rather than mine own."

"That has to be proved, Mr. Steward," says I, severely; "for you must
admit that up to this present she has had no reason to love you, seeing
that, had her fate been left in your hands, she would now be in Barbary,
and like to end her days there. How, then, can she think but that you
had some selfish, wicked end in denying her the service we, who are
strangers, have rendered her?"

"Thee speakest truth, friend, and yet thee knowest that I observed only
the righteous prudence of an honest servant."

"We will say no more on that head, but you may rest assured on my
promise--knowing as I do the noble, generous nature of your
mistress--that if she has done you wrong in suspecting you of base
purpose, she will be the first to admit her fault and offer you
reparation."

"I seek no reparation, no reward, nothing in the world but the right to
cherish this estate," cries he, in passion; and, upon my looking at him
very curiously, as not understanding the motive of such devotion, he
continues: "Thee canst not believe me, and yet truly I am neither a liar
nor a madman. What do others toil for? A wife--children--friends--the
gratification of ambition or lust! I have no kith or kin, no ambition,
no lust; but this estate is wife, child, everything, to me. 'Tis like
some work of vanity,--a carved image that a man may give his whole life
to making, and yet die content if he achieves but some approach to the
creation of his soul. I have made this estate out of nothing; it hath
grown larger and larger, richer and more rich, in answer to my skill;
why should I not love it, and put my whole heart in the accomplishment
of my design, with the same devotion that you admire in the maker of
graven images?"

Despite his natural infirmities, Simon delivered this astonishing
rhapsody with a certain sort of vehemence that made it eloquent; and
indeed, strange as his passion was, I could not deny that it was as
reasonable in its way as any nobler act of self-sacrifice.

"I begin to understand you, Mr. Steward," says I.

"Then, good friend, as thee wouldst help the man in peril of being torn
from his child, render me this estate to govern; save it from the hands
of usurers and lawyers, men of no conscience, to whom this Spanish Don
would deliver it for the speedy satisfaction of his greed."

"Nay, my claim's as great as his," says I, "and my affairs more
pressing" (with a glance at my papers), "I am undone, my credit lost, my
occupation gone."

"Thee shalt be paid to the last farthing. Examine my books, enquire into
the value of my securities, and thee wilt find full assurance."

"Well, one of these days mayhap," says I, as if to put him off.

"Nay, come at once, I implore thee; for until I am justified to my
mistress, I stand like one betwixt life and death."

"For one thing," says I, still shuffling, "I can do nothing, nor you
either, to the payment of our just claim, before the inheritance is
safely settled upon Mistress Godwin."

"That shall be done forthwith. I understand the intricacies of the law,
and know my way" (tapping his head and then his pocket), "to get a seal,
with ten times the despatch of any attorney. I promise by Saturday thee
shalt have assurance to thy utmost requirement. Say, good friend, thee
wilt be at my lodge house on that day."

"I'll promise nothing," says I. "Our poor Captain Evans is still a
prisoner in his room."

"Aye," says Dawson, coming in from the next room, in his nightgown,
seeming very feeble and weak despite his blustering voice, "and I'm like
to be no better till I can get a ship of my own and be to sea again.
Have you brought my money, Mr. Quaker?"

"Thee shalt have it truly; wait but a little while, good friend, a
little while."

"Wait a little while and founder altogether, eh? I know you land sharks,
and would I'd been born with a smack of your cunning; then had I never
gone of this venture, and lost my ship and twoscore men, that money'll
ne'er replace. Look at me, a sheer hulk and no more, and all through
lending ear to one prayer and another. I doubt you're minded to turn
your back on poor old Bob Evans, as t'others have, Mr. Hopkins,--and why
not? The poor old man's worth nothing, and cannot help himself." With
this he fell a-snivelling like any girl.

"I vow I'll not quit you, Evans, till you're hale again."

"Bring him with thee o' Saturday," urged Simon. "Surely, my mistress can
never have the heart to refuse you shelter at the Court, who owes her
life to ye. Come and stay there till thy wage be paid, friend Evans."

"What! would ye make an honest sailor play bum-bailiff, and stick in a
house, willy nilly, till money's found? Plague of your dry land! Give me
a pitching ship and a rolling sea, and a gale whistling in my shrouds.
Oh, my reins, my reins! give me a paper of tobacco, Mr. Hopkins, and a
pipe to soothe this agony, or I shall grow desperate!"

I left the room as if to satisfy this desire, and Simon followed,
imploring me still to come on Saturday to Chislehurst; and I at length
got rid of him by promising to come as soon as Evans could be left or
induced to accompany me.

I persuaded Dawson, very much against his gree, to delay our going until
Monday, the better to hoodwink old Simon; and on that day we set out for
Chislehurst, both clad according to our condition,--he in rough frieze,
and I in a very proper, seemly sort of cloth,--and with more guineas in
our pockets than ever before we had possessed shillings. And a very
merry journey this was; for Dawson, finding himself once more at
liberty, and hearty as a lark after his long confinement and under no
constraint, was like a boy let loose from school. Carolling at the top
of his voice, playing mad pranks with all who passed us on the road, and
staying at every inn to drink twopenny ale, so that I feared he would
certainly fall ill of drinking, as he had before of eating; but the
exercise of riding, the fresh, wholesome air, and half an hour's doze in
a spinney, did settle his liquor, and so he reached Hurst Court quite
sober, thanks be to Heaven, though very gay. And there we had need of
all our self-command, to conceal our joy in finding those gates open to
us, which we had looked through so fondly when we were last here, and to
spy Moll, in a stately gown, on the fine terrace before this noble
house, carrying herself as if she had lived here all her life, and Don
Sanchez walking very deferential by her side. Especially Dawson could
scarce bring himself to speak to her in an uncouth, surly manner, as
befitted his character, and no sooner were we entered the house but he
whips Moll behind a door, and falls a-hugging and kissing her like any
sly young lover.

Whilst he was giving way to these extravagances, which Moll had not the
heart to rebuff,--for in her full, warm heart she was as overjoyed to
see him there as he her,--Don Sanchez and I paced up and down the
spacious hall, I all of a twitter lest one or other of the servants
might discover the familiarity of these two (which must have been a fine
matter for curious gossip in the household and elsewhere), and the Don
mighty sombre and grave (as foreseeing an evil outcome of this
business), so that he would make no answer to my civilities save by dumb
gestures, showing he was highly displeased. But truly 'twas enough to
set us all crazy, but he, with joy, to be in possession of all these
riches and think that we had landed at Chatham scarce a fortnight before
without decent clothes to our backs, and now, but for the success of our
design, might be the penniless strolling vagabonds we were when Don
Sanchez lighted on us.

Presently Moll came out from the side room with her father, her hair all
tumbled, and as rosy as a peach, and she would have us visit the house
from top to bottom, showing us the rooms set apart for us, her own
chamber, the state room, the dining-hall, the store closets for plate
and linen, etc., all prodigious fine and in most excellent condition;
for the scrupulous minute care of old Simon had suffered nothing to fall
out of repair, the rooms being kept well aired, the pictures,
tapestries, and magnificent furniture all preserved fresh with linen
covers and the like. From the hall she led us out on to the terrace to
survey the park and the gardens about the house, and here, as within
doors, all was in most admirable keeping, with no wild growth or
runaweeds anywhere, nor any sign of neglect. But I observed, as an
indication of the steward's thrifty, unpoetic mind, that the garden beds
were planted with onions and such marketable produce, in place of
flowers, and that instead of deer grazing upon the green slopes of the
park there was only such profitable cattle as sheep, cows, etc. And at
the sight of all this abundance of good things (and especially the
well-stored buttery), Dawson declared he could live here all his life
and never worry. And with that, all unthinkingly, he lays his arm about
Moll's waist.

Then the Don, who had followed us up and down stairs, speaking never one
word till this, says, "We may count ourselves lucky, Captain Evans, if
we are suffered to stay here another week."

CHAPTER XVI.

_Prosper as well as any thieves may; but Dawson greatly tormented._

The next morning I went to Simon at his lodge house, having writ him a
note overnight to prepare him for my visit, and there I found him, with
all his books and papers ready for my examination. So to it we set,
casting up figures, comparing accounts, and so forth, best part of the
day, and in the end I came away convinced that he was the most
scrupulous, honest steward ever man had. And, truly, it appeared that by
his prudent investments and careful management he had trebled the value
of the estate, and more, in the last ten years. He showed me, also, that
in all his valuations he had set off a large sum for loss by accident of
fire, war, etc., so that actually at the present moment the estate,
which he reckoned at seventy-five thousand pounds, was worth at the
least one hundred and twenty-five thousand. But for better assurance on
this head, I spent the remainder of the week in visiting the farms,
messuages, etc., on his rent roll, and found them all in excellent
condition, and held by good substantial men, nothing in any particular
but what he represented it.

Reporting on these matters privily to Don Sanchez and Dawson, I asked
the Don what we should now be doing.

"Two ways lie before us," says he, lighting a cigarro. "Put Simon out of
his house--and make an enemy of him," adds he, betwixt two puffs of
smoke, "seize his securities, sell them for what they will fetch, and
get out of the country as quickly as possible. If the securities be
worth one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds, we may" (puff)
"possibly" (puff) "get forty thousand for them" (puff), "about a third
of their value--not more. That yields us ten thousand apiece. On ten
thousand pounds a man may live like a prince--in Spain. The other way is
to make a friend of Simon by restoring him to his office, suffer him to
treble the worth of the estate again in the next ten years, and live
like kings" (puff) "in England."

"Pray, which way do you incline, Senor?" says I.

"Being a Spaniard," answers he, gravely, "I should prefer to live like a
prince in Spain."

"That would not I," says Dawson, stoutly. "A year and a half of Elche
have cured me of all fondness for foreign parts. Besides, 'tis a
beggarly, scurvy thing to fly one's country, as if we had done some
unhandsome, dishonest trick. If I faced an Englishman, I should never
dare look him straight in the eyes again. What say you, Mr. Hopkins?"

"Why, Evans," says I, "you know my will without telling. I will not, of
my own accord, go from your choice, which way you will."

"Since we owe everything to Mistress Judith," observes the Don, "and as
she is no longer a child, ought not her wishes to be consulted?"

"No," says Jack, very decidedly, and then, lowering his voice, he adds,
"for was she Judith Godwin ten times told, and as old as my grandmother
into the bargain, she is still my daughter, and shall do as I choose her
to do. And if, as you say, we owe her everything, then I count 'twould
be a mean, dirty return to make her live out of England and feel she has
a sneaking coward for a father."

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