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“Safe aboard my ship, the _Deliverance_.”

“‘Twas you fought the _Happy Despatch_?”

“Aye, Martin, and should have very properly destroyed every rogue aboard but for my lady–“

“My lady?” said I, sitting up. “My lady–Joan?”

“Aye, verily–“

“Then ’tis true–all true!” said I, and fell a-trembling. “My lady’s here?”

“She is, Martin, and more’s the pity. For look’ee, having boarded yon devil’s craft and cut down such as resisted, I was very properly for hanging such as remained, when down on me comes my lady and is for carrying the rogues to trial, the which is but vain labour and loss o’ time, since each and all of my twenty and three prisoners is bound to swing soon or late, as I told her, but, ‘No matter, Sir Adam,’ says she. ‘Law is law, Sir Adam,’ quo’ she. When cometh Godby, running, to say the cursed ship was afire, and coming to the main hatchway, I beheld, half-strangled in the smoke, yourself, shipmate, and a woman in your arms–“

“Ha–’twas Joanna!” said I, leaping in the bed. “What of her, Adam–what of her, man?”

“A fine woman, I’ll allow, Martin, and by her looks a lady of quality–“

“Say a demon rather–a very she-devil!”

“Why, as you will, Martin, as you will!” said he. “Only rest you, lest the fever take you again.”

“How was I wounded, then?”

“A flying splinter in the head, Martin, so Surgeon Penruddock says. But then you have a marvellous stout skull, as I do know, shipmate.”

“What ha’ you done with Joanna–where is she?”

“Content you, Martin, she is safe enough and well cared for; you shall see her anon,” said he, stroking his long chin and viewing me with his quick, keen eyes, “But first you shall eat!” And he rang the small silver bell that stood upon the table, whereon in dame a soft-footed serving-man in handsome livery, who, receiving Adam’s commands, presently bowed himself out again.

Hereupon Adam set on his periwig and fell to pacing slowly to and fro, his feet soundless upon the rich carpet, viewing me now and then like one that ponders some problem. Now, beholding his air of latent power and indomitable mastery, the richness of his habit, the luxury that surrounded him, it seemed in very truth that he was the great gentleman and I the merest poor suppliant for his bounty; whereupon I must needs contrast his case with mine and perceiving myself no better than I had been three weary years since, to wit: the same poor, destitute wretch, I fell into a black and sullen humour:

“You go vastly fine these days!” quoth I, scowling (like the surly dog I was).

“Aye, Martin–I am so vastly rich!” he sighed. “I am a baronet, shipmate!” he nodded dolefully. “And what is worse, I own many rich manors and countless broad acres besides divers castles, mansions, houses and the like. Thus all men do protest friendship for me, and at this moment there be many noble ladies do sigh for me or the manors and castles aforesaid. And there was a duchess, Martin, was set upon wedding my riches (and me along of ’em) but I have no leaning to duchesses, though this one was young and comely enough. So went I to the King, who by his grace suffered me to fit out, provision, arm and man this ship at my own expense, Martin, and square away for the Spanish Main to sink, burn and utterly destroy such pirate vessels as I can bring to action. So here am I, shipmate, since I had rather fight rogues when and where I may than marry a duchess once. And here cometh what shall do you a world o’ good, Martin–broth with a dash o’ rum–which is good for a man, soul and body!” said he, as the serving-fellow appeared, bearing a silver tray whereon stood broth in a silver bowl of most delectable odour. And indeed, very good broth I found it.

So whiles I ate, Adam, sitting near, told me much of his doings since he left me solitary on Bartlemy’s Island, but of my lady Joan Brandon he spoke no word.

“‘Tis but three short years since we parted, shipmate, three short years–“

“Three long, empty years!” said I bitterly.

“Aye, truth!” quoth he. “You had a mind to nought but vengeance, which is an empty thing, as belike you’ll allow, Martin, you being now three long, empty years the wiser?”

Here, what with the hot broth and my hotter anger, I came nigh to choking, whereupon he rose and, seeing the bowl empty, took it from me and thereafter set another pillow to my back, the while I reviled him impotently.

“There, there, Martin!” said he, patting my shoulder as I had been a petulant child. “Never miscall Adam that is your friend, for if you have wasted yourself in a vanity, so have I, for here you see me full of honours, Martin, a justice, a member o’ Parliament, a power at Court with great lords eager for my friendship and great ladies eager to wed me. Yet here am I safe at sea and fighting rogues as often as I may, for great riches is a plague that tainteth love and friendship alike–_vanitas vanitatum, omnium vanitas_!”

“Yet your three years have been turned to better account than mine!” said I, grown suddenly humble.

“In the matter of houses and land, Martin?”

“Aye!” I nodded. “For my three years I’ve nought to show but scars and rags.”

“Not so, Martin, for your fortune marched with mine. Lord love you, I never bought stick or stone or acre of land but I bought one for you, comrade, share and share, shipmate. So, if I am a man o’ great possessions, so are you, Martin; there be lands and houses in old England waiting their master as you sit there.” Now at this I lay silent awhile, but at last I reached out a fumbling hand, the which he took and wrung in his vital clasp.

“God help me, Adam!” said I. “What have these years made of me?”

“That same scowling, unlovely, honest-hearted self-deluder that is my sworn comrade and blood-brother and that I do love heartily for his own sake and the sake of my lady Joan. For look’ee, she hath oft told me of you and the life you lived together on Bartlemy’s Island.”

“And has she so indeed?” quoth I.

“Aye, verily. Lord, Martin, when she waked from her swoon aboard ship and found I had sailed without you, she was like one distraught and was for having me ’bout ship that she might stay to comfort you in your solitude. And so I did, Martin, but we were beset by storm and tempest and blown far out of our course and further beset by pirates and the like evils, and in the end came hardly to England with our lives. No sooner there than my lady fits out an expedition to your relief and I busied with divers weighty concerns, she sails without me and is wrecked in the Downs, whereby she lost her ship and therewith all she possessed, save only Conisby Shene, the which she holdeth in your name, Martin.”

“Adam,” said I, “Oh, Adam, surely this world hath not her like–“

“Assuredly not!” quoth he. “The which doth put me to great wonder you should come to forget her a while–“

“Forget her? I?”

“Aye, Martin–in the matter of the–the lady yonder–Madam Joanna–“

“Joanna!” I cried, clenching my fists. “That demon!”

“Ha–demon, is it?” quoth Adam, pinching his chin and eyeing me askance. “Doth your love grow all sudden cold–“

“Love?” cried I. “Nay–my hate waxeth for thing so evil–she is a very devil–“

“Nay, Martin, she is a poor Spanish lady, exceeding comely and with a hand, a foot, an eye, a person of birth and breeding, a dainty lady indeed, yet of a marvellous sweet conversation and gentle deportment, and worthy any man’s love. I do allow–“

“Man,” cried I, “you do speak arrant folly–she is Joanna!”

“Why, true, Martin, true!” said Adam soothingly and eyeing me anxious-eyed. “She is the lady Joanna that you preserved from death and worse, it seems–“

“Says she so, Adam?”

“Aye! And, by her showing, some small–some few small–kindnesses have passed betwixt you.”

“Kindnesses?” I demanded.

“Aye, Martin, as is but natural, God knoweth. Kisses, d’ye see, embraces–“

“She lies!” quoth I, starting up in bed, “she lies!”

“Why, very well, Martin–“

“Ha, d’ye doubt my word, Adam?”

“No, Martin, no–except–when first I clapped eyes on you, she chanced to be lying in your arms, d’ye see?”

“Tush!” said I. “What o’ that? ‘Twas after she’d set the ship afire and sought to murder Don Federigo; we left her in the ‘tween-decks and I found her nigh stifled by the smoke. Have you got her fast in the bilboes–safe under lock and key?”

“Lord love you–no. Martin!” said he, viewing me askance as I were raving. “So young, Martin! And a bullet wound i’ the arm and mighty brave, despite her tenderness, so says Penruddock our surgeon.”

“Why then, in God’s name–where is she?”

“Where should she be, seeing she was wounded and solitary, but with my lady Joan!”

“God forbid!” cried I.

“Why, Martin, ’tis my lady’s whim–they walk together, talk, eat, aye, and sleep together, for aught I know–“

“Adam,” said I, grasping him by the arm. “You know Captain Tressady of old, and Mings and Red Rory, Sol Aiken and others of the Coast Brotherhood, but have you ever met the fiercest, bravest, greatest of these rogues; have you ever heard tell of Captain ‘Jo’?”

“Aye, truly, Martin, some young springald that hath risen among ’em since my time, a bloody rogue by account and one I would fain come alongside of–“

“Captain Jo lies in your power, Adam; Captain Jo is aboard; Captain Jo is Joanna herself! ‘Twas Joanna fought the _Happy Despatch_ so desperately!”

Now hereupon Adam fell back a pace and stood staring down on me and pinching his chin, but with never a word. And seeing him thus incredulous still, I strove to get me out of bed.

“Easy, Martin!” said he, restraining me. “These be wild and whirling words and something hard to believe–“

“Why, then, if you doubt me still, summon hither Don Federigo an he be yet alive–“

“Look now, Martin,” said he, seating himself on the bed beside me. “Since we left England I have burned or scuttled four rascally pirate craft and each and every a fighting ship, yet no one of them so mauled and battered us as this _Happy Despatch_ (whereby I have lost fourteen good fellows dead besides thirty wounded) the which as I do know was captained by one calling himself Belvedere–“

“Tush!” cried I. “He was a man of straw and would have run or struck to you after your first broadside! ‘Twas Joanna and Resolution Day fought the ship after Belvedere was dead–“

“Ah, dead, is he? Why, very good!” said Adam, rising and seating himself at the table. “Here is yet another name for my journal. You saw him dead, Martin?” he questioned, taking up his pen.

“Most horribly! He was killed by the mate, Resolution Day–“

“Ha!” says Adam, turning to his writing. “‘Tis a name sticks in my memory–a man I took out o’ prison and saved from burning along with divers others, when we took Margarita–a tall, one-eyed man and scarred by the torment–?”

“‘Tis the same! But, God forgive you, Adam, why must you be wasting time over your curst journal and idle talk–“

“I think, Martin! I meditate! For, if this be true indeed, we must go like Agog–delicately–Martin–delicately!”

“Folly–oh, folly!” cried I. “Joanna may be firing the ship as you sit scribbling there, or contriving some harm to my dear lady–act, man–act!”

“As how, Martin?” he questioned, carefully sanding what he had writ.

“Seize her ere she can strike, set her fast under lock and key, have her watched continually–“

“Hum!” said Adam, pinching his chin and viewing me with his keen gaze. “If she be so dangerous as you say, why not slay her out of hand–“

“No!” said I. “No!”

“But she is a pirate, you tell me?”

“She is! And I do know her for murderess beside!”

“How came you in her company, Martin?”

Hereupon in feverish haste I recounted much of what I have already set down concerning this strange, wild creature, to all of which he hearkened mighty attentive, pinching at his chin and a frown on his face.

“Verily!” said he, when I had done. “Never heard man stranger story!” But seeing how he regarded me in the same dubious manner, I leapt out of bed ere he might prevent and staggered with weakness. “Lord love you, Martin,” said he, snatching me in his iron grip, “Lord love you, what would you be at? Here’s Surgeon Penruddock and his two mates with their hands full enough, as it is, God knoweth, and you sick o’ your wound–” So saying, Adam bundled me back into bed, willy-nilly.

“Why, then, question Don Federigo, who knoweth her better than I–summon him hither–“

“Impossible, Martin, he lieth very nigh to death.”

“And what of Joanna? She is as swift as a snake and as deadly–she is a lurking danger–a constant menace, beyond thought subtle and crafty–“

“Hist!” quoth Adam, catching me by the arm and turning suddenly as came a soft rapping; then the door opened and Joanna herself stood before us, but indeed a Joanna such as I had never seen. Timid, abashed, great-eyed and wistful, she stood looking on me, her slender hands tight-clasped, her tremulous, parted lips more vivid by reason of the pallor of her cheeks, all shy and tender womanhood from the glossy ringlets at her white brow to the dainty shoe that peeped forth of her petticoat; as for me, I sank back among my pillows amazed beyond–all speech by the infinite change in her, for here was a transformation that went beyond mere lace and velvets; the change was in her very self, her look, her voice, her every gesture.

“_Martino mio_!” said she at last, and sure this pen of mine may never tell all the languorous caress of these two words; and then, or ever I might speak or stir, she was beside me and had caught my hand to her lips. And then I saw Joan standing in the doorway, the Damaris of my dreams, and though her lips smiled upon us, there was that in her eyes that filled me with bitter shame and an agony beyond the telling.

“Damaris!” I groaned and freed my hand so suddenly that Joanna stumbled and would have fallen, but for Adam’s ready arm. “Damaris!” I cried. “Ah, God,’–look not so! All these weary years I have lived and dreamed but of you–Joan, beloved, ’twas thy sweet memory made my solitude worth the living–without thee I had died–” Choking with my grief, I reached out my hands in passionate supplication to that loved shape that drooped in the doorway, one white hand against the carven panelling; and then Joanna was on her knees, her soft cheek pressed to my quivering fist, wetting it with her tears:

“Martino!” she sobbed. “Ah, _caro mio_, art so strange–dost not know thy Joanna–dost not know me, Martino?”

“Aye, I know you, Captain Jo,” I cried. “Well I know you to my cost, as hath many another: I know you for ‘La Culebra,’ for Joanna that is worshipped, obeyed and followed by every pirate rogue along the Main. Oh, truly I know you to my bitter sorrow–“

Now at this she gave a little, pitiful, helpless gesture and looked from me to the others, her eyes a-swim with tears.

“Alas!” she sobbed. “And is he yet so direly sick?” Then, bowing her head to the pillow beside me, “Oh, loved Martino,” she sighed, “art so sick not to remember all that is betwixt us, that which doth make thee mine so long as life shall be to me–the wonder I have told to my lady Damaris–“

Now here I caught her in savage gripe. “What,” cried I, shaking her to and fro despite my weakness, “what ha’ you told my lady?”

“Beloved Martino–I confessed our love–alas, was I wrong, Martino–I told her my joyous hope to be the mother of your child ere long–“

“Oh, shame!” cried I. “Oh, accursed liar!” And I hurled her from me; then, lying gasping amid my tumbled pillows, my aching head between my hands, I saw my beloved lady stoop to lift her, saw that lying head pillowed on Joan’s pure bosom and uttering a great cry, I sank to a merciful unconsciousness.

CHAPTER XVI

HOW I HAD WORD WITH MY LADY, JOAN BRANDON

“A marvel, Sir Adam (perceive me), a wonder! The constitution of a horse, an ox, nay an elephant, the which monstrous beast (you’ll allow me!) hath a pachydermatous hide tolerably impervious to spears, axes, darts, javelins and the like puny offences, and a constitution whereby he liveth (you’ll observe) whole centuries. Indeed, Sir Adam, ’tis a cure marvellous, being one I ha’ wrought on my patient in spite of said patient. For look now (and heed me) here we have soul, mind and will, or what you will, pulling one way, and body hauling t’other, and body hath it, physics versus metaphysics–a pretty and notable case–“

“Why, he hath a notable hard head, Master Penruddock–“

“Head, Sir Adam, head–were his head as adamantine, as millstone or hard as one o’ your cannon balls that shall not save him, if mind and body agreeably seek and desire death, and mind (pray understand, sir) is the more potent factor, thus (saving and excepting the abnormal vigour of his body) by all the rules of chirurgical science he should ha’ died three days agone–when the seizure took him.”

“Would to heaven I had!” said I, opening my eyes to scowl up at the little man who beamed down on me through monstrous horn-rimmed spectacles.

“Aha, and there we have it confessed, Sir Adam!” said he. “Yet we shall have him on his legs again in a day or so, thanks to my art–“

“And his lady’s nursing!”

“What, hath she been with me in my sickness, Adam?” I questioned when the doctor had departed.

“Night and day, Martin, as sweet and patient with you as any angel in heaven, and you cursing and reviling her the while in your ravings–“

“Oh, God forgive me! Where is she now, Adam?”

“With my Lady Joan–“

“How?” I cried. “Was this Joanna nursed me?”

“Why, truly, Martin. Could she have better employ?” But hereupon I fell to such fury that Adam turned to stare at me, pen in hand.

“Lord love you, Martin,” said he, pinching his chin, “I begin to think that skull o’ yours is none so hard, after all–“

“And you,” quoth I bitterly. “Your wits are none so keen as I had judged ’em. You are grown a very credulous fool, it seems!”

“Ha–’tis very well, shipmate!”

“For here you have Joanna–this evil creature stained by God knoweth how many shameful crimes–you have her beneath your hand and let her come and go as she lists, to work such new harms as her cunning may suggest–either you disbelieve my statements, or you’ve run mad, unless–“

“Unless what, Martin?”

“Unless she’s bewitched you as she hath full many a man ere now.”

Adam blenched and (for the first time in my remembrance) his keen eyes quailed before mine, and over his bronzed face, from aggressive chin to prominent brow, crept a slow and painful red.

“Martin,” said he, his eyes steady again, “I will confess to you that is my blood-brother and comrade sworn, I have–thought better of–of her than any proud lady or duchess of ’em all–“

“Despite the foul and shameful lie you heard her utter?”

“Despite everything, Martin.”

“Then God help you, Adam!”

“Amen,” said he.

“You are surely crazed–“

“Why, very well, Martin, though you know me for a timid man–“

“Tush!” quoth I, turning my back on him.

“And a cautious, more especially in regard to women, having known but few and understanding none. Thus, Martin, though I seem crazed and foolish, ’tis very well, so long as I have eyes to see and ears to hear, and now I’ll away and use ’em awhile. And here,” said he, rising as a knock sounded on the door, “should be an old friend o’ yours that got himself something scorched on your account.” And opening the door he disclosed a squat, broad-shouldered fellow of a sober habit, his head swathed in a bandage, but the eyes of him very round and bright and his wide mouth up-curving in a smile.

“Godby!” said I, and reached but my hand to him.

“Why, Mart’n!” cried he. “Oh, pal–here’s j’y, choke me wi’ a rammer else! Lord, Mart’n–three years–how time doth gallop! And you no whit changed, save for your beard! But here’s me wi’ a fine stocked farm t’other side Lamberhurst–and, what’s more, a wife in’t as be sister to Cecily as you’ll mind at the ‘Hoppole’–and, what’s more, a blessed infant, pal, as I’ve named Tom arter myself, by reason that my name is God-be-here, and Mart’n arter you, by reason you are my pal and brought me all the good fortun’ as I ever had. Aha, ’twas a mortal good hour for me when we first struck hands, Mart’n.”

“And you’re more than quits, Godby, by saving me from the fire–“

“Why, pal, you fell all of a swound, d’ye see, and there’s my Lady Brandon and t’other ‘un a-running to fetch ye, flames or no–so what could I do–“

“My lady Joan?”

“Aye and t’other ‘un–the Spanish dame as you come up a-cuddling of, Mart’n–and a notable fine piece she be, as I’m a gunner–“

“Is my lady on deck?”

“Which on ’em, pal?”

“Joan, man–my Lady Brandon!”

“Aye, and mighty downcast by her look. ‘Godby,’ says she to me a while back, ‘if I find not my father now, I do think my poor heart will break!’ And the sweet sad eyes of her, pal–“

“I’ll get up!” said I, tossing off the bed clothes.

“Lord, Mart’n, what’ll Cap’n Adam say–“

“‘Tis no matter!”

“Are ye strong enough, pal?”

“To be sure!” said I, and getting upon my feet, reeled for very weakness and should have fallen but that Godby propped me with his shoulder; supported thus and despite Godby’s remonstrances, I staggered to and fro and gradually found my strength return in some small measure, whereupon I began to dress myself forthwith.

“Whither are we sailing, Godby?”

“To the nearest secure anchorage, Mart’n, for what wi’ storm and battle we are so battered and sprung, alow and aloft–and small wonder, here’s four ships we’ve destroyed since we left Old England, battle, murder and sudden death, pal!”

So with Godby’s help I got me out upon the broad quarter-deck and saw the _Deliverance_ for a fine, roomy ship, very clean and trim, her decks new-scoured, her brass-work gleaming in the sun; though here and there the carpenters were still repairing such damage as she had taken in the fight.

“A noble ship, pal,” says Godby, as I sat me down on one of the guns, “and looks vasty different to what she did three days since, her foreyard and main-to’-gallant mast shot away and her starboard bulwarks shattered fore and aft and three shot-holes under water as can’t be come at till we careen.”

“‘Twas hot fight–I marvel your damage was no greater,” says I, glancing hither and thither for sight of my lady, and my heart throbbing with expectation.

“Nay, Mart’n, ’twas guile, ’twas craft, ’twas seamanship. Lord love your eyes, pal, Cap’n Adam seized him the vantage point by means of a fore-course towing under water, and kept it. For look’ee, ’tis slip our floating anchor, up wi’ our helm and down on ’em ‘thwart-hawse and let fly our larboard broadside, veer and pound ’em wi’ our starboard guns, keeping the weather gauge, d’ye see, pal, till their fire slackens and them blind wi’ our smoke and theirs. Then to close wi’ ’em till our gun muzzles are nigh touching and whiles we pound ’em below, ’tis grappling irons and boarders away! Aha, a wonderful man is Cap’n Adam–oh, ’tis beautiful sight to watch him take ship into action; ’tis sight to warm a man’s in’nards and make archangels sing for j’y, pal. Aye, deafen, blind and choke me but a man o’ men is Cap’n Adam Penfeather!”

“He is come to great repute, I hear!” said I, my hungry gaze wandering.

“Verily he hath, Mart’n; the King do honour him vastly especially since he pinked a strutting, quarrelsome gentleman through the sword-arm in St. James’s Park, and him a nearl, pal!”

“At last!” says I.

“Anan, pal?” he questioned, but looking where I looked. “Aye,” he nodded, “’tis my Lady Brandon, and mighty despondent by her looks as I told ye, Mart’n.” All unconscious of me she crossed the deck slow-footed and coming to the lee bulwark, paused there, her lovely head down-bent upon her hands.

Now watching her as she stood thus, my eager gaze dwelling on every line of the beloved shape, I was filled with such overmastering emotion, an ecstasy so keen, that I fell a-trembling and my eyes filled with sudden, blinding tears; and bowing my face on my hand, I sat thus a while until I had composed myself. Then I arose and made my way towards her on stumbling feet.

Suddenly she turned and espying me, started and fell a-trembling, even as I.

“Martin,” said she below her breath. “Oh, Martin!”

“Damaris!” I muttered. “Beloved–!”

Now at this she gave a little gasp and turned to gaze away across the placid waters, and I saw her slender hands clasp and wring each other.

“Have you no word of greeting for me?”

“I rejoice to–to see you well again, Martin!”

“Have you no word of–love for me, after all these years, Damaris?” At this she shrank away and, leaning ‘gainst the bulwark, shook her head, and again I saw that hopeless gesture of her quivering hands.

“Is your love for me dead, then?” I questioned, coming a pace nearer.

“Ah, never that, Martin!” she whispered. “Only I have–buried it deep–within my heart–where it shall lie for ever hid for thy sake and her sake and–and that–which is to be–this poor Joanna hath told me–“

Now hereupon I laughed and caught her hands and kissed them and they, the pretty things, trembling ‘neath my kisses.

“God love thee for sweet and noble woman, my Damaris,” said I, sinking to my knees before her, “and now, thus kneeling in the sight of God and thee, hear me swear that hateful thing of which you speak never was and never shall be!” Here I clasped my arms about her, felt her yield and sway to my embrace, saw a dawning glory in her eyes.

“Martin,” said she, quick-breathing, “if this be so indeed–“

“Indeed and indeed, Joanna spake a shameful lie–a woman prone to every evil, being a murderess and–“

“A murderess, Martin?”

“Aye, by her own confession, and I do know her for a pirate beside, more desperate and resolute than any, known to every rogue along the Main as Captain Jo.”

Now here my lady stirred in my embrace and looked down on me with troubled gaze.

“And yet, dear Martin, you lived with her on–on our island?”

“Aye, I did–to my torment, and prayed God I might not slay her.” And here in breathless fashion I told my lady of Joanna’s coming and of the ills that followed; but seeing the growing trouble in her look, my arms fell from her and great bitterness filled me. “Ah, God in heaven, Damaris!” I cried, “never say you doubt my word–“

“Martin!”

I rose to my feet to behold Joanna within a yard of us. For a long and breathless moment she looked from me to other of us and then, shuddering, hid her face in her two hands.

“Dear my lady,” said she at last, “if by reason of his wound my loved Martin hath grown strange to me and all his love for me forgot–if indeed you do love him–to you that have been more than sister and gentle friend to miserable Joanna, to you I do yield my love henceforth, nor will I repine, since my love for thee shall teach me how to bear my shame, yes–“

“Ha, damned liar!” I cried, and turned on Joanna with clenched fists; and then my lady’s restraining arms were about me and I sank half-swooning against the ship’s side.

“Dear Martin,” said she, viewing me tearful-eyed, “you are not yourself–“

“No!” cried I, burying my throbbing head betwixt my arms. “I am Fortune’s Fool–the world is upside down–God help me, I shall run mad in very truth. Oh, damned Fortune–curst Fate!” and I brake out into futile raving awhile. When at last I raised my head it was to behold my lady clasping this vile creature in her arms and cherishing her with tender words and caresses, the which sight wrought me to a very frenzy of cold and bitter rage. Said I:

“My Lady Brandon, God knoweth I have greatly loved you, wherein I have wasted myself on a vain thing as is to me right manifest. So now, since you have buried your love, mine do I tear from me and cast utterly away; henceforth I am no more than an instrument of vengeance–“

“Martin!” cried she. “Oh, dear Martin, for the love of God–“

But (Oh, vain folly! Oh, detestable pride!) I heeded not this merciful appeal nor the crying of my own heart, but turning my back upon my noble lady, stumbled away and with never another word or look. And thus I (that was born to be my own undoer) once more barred myself out from all that life offered me of happiness, since pride is ever purblind.

Presently, espying Godby where divers of his fellows rove new tackle to a gun, I enquired for Adam.

“I’ the gun room, Mart’n–nay, I’ll stand along wi’ you.”

So he brought me down to the gun room where sat Adam, elbows on table, chin on hand, peering up at one who stood before him in fetters, a haggard, warworn figure.

“What–Resolution?” said I.

“That same, friend, brought somewhat low, comrade, yet soon, it seems, to be exalted–on a gallows, d’ye see, yet constant in prayer, steadfast in faith and nowise repining–for where would be the use? And moreover, the way o’ the Lord is my way–Amen, brother, and Amen.”

“Adam,” said I, turning where he yet gazed up at Resolution’s scarred and bandaged face, “I would fain have you show mercy to this man. But for Resolution here I had died hideously at the hands of a vile blackamoor.”

“Mercy?” said Adam, scowling up at Resolution.

“His life, Adam.”

“‘Tis forfeit! Here standeth a notable pirate and one of authority among the rogues, so must he surely die along with Captain Jo–” I saw Resolution’s shackled hands clench suddenly, then he laughed, harsh and strident.

“To hang Captain Jo you must needs catch him first!”

“Why then who–who and what is Joanna?” I demanded.

“Why, your light-o’-love, for sure, friend, as we found along o’ you on a lonely island, _amigo_.”

“Resolution, you lie–“

“On a lonely island, _camarado_,” says he again.

“Wait!” I muttered, clasping my aching head. “Wait! Joanna is the daughter of the murdered Governor of Santa Catalina who was left behind in the burning town and rescued by Indians, who, being Indians, were kind to her. But these Indians were killed by white men who took her, and, being white men, they used her ill all save one who was to her father and mother, sister and brother and his name Resolution. So she grew up a pirate among pirates, dressed, spoke and acted as they and rose to be great among them by reason of her quick wit and resolute spirit, and because of her quickness and subtle wit is called ‘La Culebra’ and for her desperate courage is hailed as ‘Captain Jo.'”

Resolution fell back a step, staring on me amazed, and I saw his shackled fists were quivering. Then suddenly Adam rose and leaned forward across the table.

“Resolution Day,” said he, “have you a memory for faces?”

I saw Resolution’s solitary eye widen and dilate as it took in the man before him, the spare form, the keen, aquiline face with its black brows, white hair and mutilated ears.

“Captain–Adam Penfeather–o’ the Brotherhood!”

“Ha!” quoth Adam, nodding grimly. “I see you know me! So, Resolution Day, I warn you to prepare to make your final exodus with Captain Jo–at sunset!”

Resolution’s scarred head sank, his maimed body seemed to shrink and there broke from him a groan:

“To hang–to die–she’s so young–so young–all I ever had to love! Oh, Lord God o’ battles–“

“Godby, summon the guard and see him safely bestowed–in the lock-up aft, and bring the key to my cabin.” So at Godby’s word, in came two armed fellows and marched out Resolution Day, his head still bowed and his fetters jangling dismally.

“You’ll never hang her, Adam!” said I, when we were alone. “You cannot, man–you shall not!”

“Lord, Martin,” said he, sitting on his great peruke and looking askance at me, “Lord, what a marvellous thick skull is thine!”

“Mayhap!” quoth I, “but you know my story for true at last–you know Joanna for Captain Jo.”

Now here he answered never a word but falls to pacing back and forth, his hands clasped behind him; whereupon I seated myself at the table and leaned my aching head betwixt my hands.

“Adam,” said I at last, “how far are we, do you reckon, from Nombre de Dios?”

“Some hundred and fifty miles, maybe a little less.”

“Why, then, give me a boat.”

“A boat?” said he, pausing in his walk to stare on me.

“Aye, a boat,” I nodded. “You cast me adrift once, you’ll mind–well–do so again!”

“And what o’ my Lady Joan? Ha–will ye tell me you’ve quarrelled already in true lover-like fashion–is this it?”

“‘Tis no matter,” quoth I, “only I do not stay on this ship another hour.”

“Lord!” said he, “Lord love me, Martin! Here you’ve scarce found her and now eager to lose her again–heaven save me from love and lovers–“

“Give me a boat.”

“A boat?” said he, pinching his chin. “A boat, is it? Why, very well, Martin–a boat! Ha, here me-thinks is the very hand o’ Providence, and who am I to gainsay it? You shall have the longboat, Martin, well stored and armed; ’tis a goodly boat that I am loth to part with–but seeing ’tis you, comrade, why very well. Only you must bide till it be dark for reasons obvious–“

“So be it!” I nodded. “And if you could give me a chart and set me a course how to steer for Nombre de Dios, I should be grateful, Adam.”

“Why, so I will, Martin. A course to Nombre–aye, verily! ‘Tis said one Sir Richard Brandon lieth ‘prisoned there. Ha–having quarrelled with daughter you speed away to sire–“

“And what then?” said I, scowling.

“Nought, Martin, nought in the world, only if in this world is a fool–art surely he, comrade. Nay, never rage against your true friend, comrade; give me your arm, let me aid you up to my cabin, for your legs are yet overly weak, I doubt.”

CHAPTER XVII

TELLETH THE OUTCOME OP MY PRIDEFUL FOLLY

The moon had not yet risen when, in despite of Adam’s warnings and remonstrances, I set the great boat-cloak about me and stepped forth into the stern-gallery of the ship, whence I might look down and behold the dark loom of the longboat, a gliding, glimmering shadow upon the white spume of the wake.

Now if there be any who, reading this my narrative, shall cry out against me for perverse fool (as I surely was) to all such I would but say that though indeed a man wild and headstrong by nature and given to passionate impulse, yet I was not wholly myself at this time by reason of my wound, so that the unlovely and gloomy spirit of selfishness that possessed me now had full sway to rule me how it listed; and I would have this plead such excuse as might be for this my so desperate and unreasonable determination, the which was to plunge me into further evils and miseries, as you shall hear.

“So you are determined on’t, Martin?” said Adam, standing beside me where I prepared to descend the short rope ladder.

“I am!”

“Lord, Martin, there is so much to love in you ’tis pity you are so much of fool–“

“You said as much before–“

“Aye, so I did, comrade, so I did. But look’ee, ’tis a smooth sea, a fair wind–aha, it needeth no pistol butt to persuade you to it this time; you go of your own will and most express desire, comrade.”

“I do, Adam.”

“And who knoweth,” said he, his gaze uplift to the Southern Cross that glimmered very bright and splendid above us, “who can say what lieth in wait for you, comrade,–hardship and suffering beyond doubt and–peradventure, death. But by hardship and suffering man learneth the wisdom of mercy, or should do, and by death he is but translated to a greater living–so I do hope. And thus, howsoever it be, all’s well, Martin, all’s well.”

“Adam,” said I, “give me your hand. You have called me ‘fool’ and fool am I, mayhap, yet in my folly, wisdom have I enough for this–to know you for my good friend and true comrade now and always!”

“Hark’ee then,” said he, grasping my hand and leaning to my ear in the gloom, “give up this desperate quest, stand by me, and I can promise ye that which is better than empty vengeance–wealth, Martin, rank, aye, and what is best of all, a noble woman’s love–“

“Enough!” cried I, “I am no weathercock and my mind is set–“

“Why, very well, but so is mine, shipmate, and set upon two things–one to fulfil my duty to the King in the matter of exterminating these pirates and the like rogues, and t’other to redeem my promise to our lady Joan in the matter of her father–your enemy.”

“How, are you for Nombre de Dios likewise, Adam?”

“Just as soon as I have this ship in staunch fighting trim, for, unless you and your vengeance are afore me, I will have Sir Richard Brandon out o’ the Inquisition’s bloody clutches either by battle or stratagem–aye, though it cost me all I possess, and God knoweth I am a vastly wealthy man, Martin.”

“Why then, we are like to meet at Nombre de Dios?” said I.

“Mayhap, Martin, who can say? Meantime, here is the chart and your sailing directions with some few words for you to ponder at leisure, and so fortune attend you and farewell, comrade.”

“One thing, Adam,” said I, grasping the ladder of ropes, “you will save alive the man Resolution Day–for my sake–“

“Aha,” quoth Adam, clapping me on the shoulder, “and there spake the man that is my friend! Never doubt it, comrade–he shall live. And look’ee, Martin, if I have been forced to play prank on ye now and then, think as kindly of me as ye can.”

Hereupon, and with Adam’s assistance, having hauled in the longboat until she was well under the gallery, I presently got me a-down the swaying rope ladder and safe aboard of her (though with no little to-do) and at my shout Adam cast off the towline, and I was adrift.

For some while I sat huddled in the bows, watching the lofty stern with its rows of lighted windows and three great lanthorns above topped by the loom of towering sails, until sails and ship merged into the night, and nought was to see save the yellow gleam of her lights that grew ever more dim, leaving me solitary upon that vast expanse of ocean that heaved all about me,–a dark and bodeful mystery.

At last, finding the wind, though very light, yet might serve me very well, I turned with intent to step the mast. And now I saw the sail was ill-stowed, the canvas lying all abroad and as I rose I beheld this canvas stirred as by a greater wind; then as I stared me this, it lifted, and from beneath it crept a shape that rose up very lithe and graceful and stood with hands reached out towards me, and then as I staggered back came a cry:

“Quick, Resolution–seize him!”

Two powerful arms clasped and dragged me down, and lying thus, dazed by the fall, I stared up to see bending above me the hated face of Joanna.

I waked to a blaze of sun, a young sun whose level beams made the bellying sail above me a thing of glory where it swung against an azure heaven, flecked with clouds pink and gold and flaming red; and stark against this splendour was the grim figure of Resolution Day, a bloody clout twisted about his head, where he sat, one sinewy hand upon the tiller, the other upon the worn Bible open upon his knees, his lips moving as he read, while hard beside me on the floor of the boat lay Joanna, fast asleep. At sight of her I started and shrank from her nearness, whereupon Resolution, lifting his head and closing the Bible on his finger, glared down on me with his solitary eye.

“Martin,” said he below his breath, and tapping the brass butt of a pistol that protruded from the pocket of his coat, “there be times when I could joyfully make an end o’ you–for her sake–her that do love you to her grief and sorrow, since her love is your hate–though what she can see in ye passes me! Howbeit, love you she doth, poor soul, and if so be you ha’ no love for her, I would ha’ you be a little kinder, Martin; ‘twould comfort her and harm you no whit. Look at her now, so fair, so young, so tender–“

“Nay, here lies Captain Jo!” said I, scowling.

“Speak lower, man,” he whispered fiercely. “I ha’ given her a sleeping potion out o’ the medicine chest Captain Penfeather provided for her; she is not yet cured of her wound, d’ye see, and I would not have her waked yet, so speak lower lest I quiet ye wi’ a rap o’ the tiller. Let her sleep,–’tis life to her. Saw ye ever a lovelier, sweeter soul?”

Now viewing her as she lay outstretched, the wild, passionate soul of her away on the wings of sleep, beholding the dark curtain of her lashes upon the pallor of her cheek, the wistful droop of her vivid lips and all the mute appeal of her tender womanhood, I could not but marvel within myself.

“And yet,” said I at last, speaking my thoughts aloud, “I have seen her foully dabbled with a dead man’s blood!”

“And why for not? Jehovah doth not always strike vile rogues dead, wherefore He hath given some women strength to do it for Him. And who are you to judge her; she was innocent once–a pearl before swine and if they–spattered her wi’ their mud, they never trampled her i’ their mire! She hath been at no man’s bidding, and fearing no man, hath ruled all men, outdoing ’em word and deed–aha, two rogues have I seen her slay in duello. Howbeit, she is as God made her, and ’tis God only shall judge His own handiwork; she is one wi’ the stars, the winds that go about the earth, blowing how they list, and these great waters that slumber or rage in dreadful tempest–she and they and we are all of God. So treat her a little kind, Martin, love or no–’tis little enough o’ kindness she has known all her days; use her a little kinder, for ’tis in my mind you’ll not regret it in after days! And talking o’ tempest, I like not the look o’ the sky–take you the tiller whiles I shorten sail and heed not to disturb Joanna.”

“And so,” said I, when he had shortened sail and was seated beside me again, “so Captain Penfeather gave you medicine for her?”

“Aye, did he!”

“And knew you were hid in the boat?”

“‘Twas himself set us there.”

Now at this I fell to profound thought, and bethinking me of the letter and chart he had given me, I took it out of my pocket and breaking the seals, read as here followeth:

_Dear Friend, Comrade and Brother_,

Item: Thou art a fool! Yet is there (as it doth seem) an especial Providence for such fools, in particular fools of thy sort. Thus do I bid thee farewell in the sure hope that (saving for shipwreck, fire, battle, pestilence and the like evils) I shall find thee again and perchance something wiser, since Folly plus Hardship shall mayhap work a miracle of Wisdom.

Herewith I have drawn you a chart, the parallels duly marked and course likewise, whereby you shall come (Providence aiding) unto Nombre de Dios. And so to your vengeance, Martin, and when found much good may it do thee is the prayer of

Thy patient, hopeful, faithful friend,

ADAM.

NOTA BENE: Should we fail to meet at Nombre de Dios I give you for rendezvous the place which I have clearly marked on the chart (aforementioned) with a X.

“Look’ee, friend,” said Resolution, when I had made an end of reading. “You plead and spoke for my life of Captain Penfeather and he regarded your will, wherefore am I alive, wherefore are we quits in the matter o’ the heathen Pompey and I your friend henceforth ‘gainst all the world, saving only and excepting Joanna.”

“Where do we make for, Resolution?”

“To a little island well beknown to the Fraternity, comrade–that is three islands close-set and called Foremast, Main and Mizzen islands, _amigo_, where we are apt to meet friends, as I say, and sure to find good store of food and the like, brother. Though to be sure this boat is right well equipped, both for victuals and weapons.”

“And when are we like to reach these islands?”

“We should raise ’em to-morrow about dawn, friend, if this wind hold.”

“And what is to become of me, Resolution?”

“‘Tis for Joanna to say, _camarado_”

Now hereupon, stretched out in such shadow as our scant sail afforded (the sun being very hot) I began to reflect upon this ill-chance Fate, in the person of Adam, had played me (cast again thus helpless at the mercy of Joanna) and instead of wasting myself in futile rages against Adam (and him so far out of my reach) I began instead to cast about in my mind how soonest I might escape from this hateful situation; to the which end I determined to follow Resolution’s advice is so far as I might, viz: to preserve towards Joanna as kindly a seeming as might be, and here, chancing to look where she lay, I saw her awake and watching me.

“D’ye grieve for your Joan–Damaris–yes?” she demanded suddenly.

“Nay–of what avail?”

“Then I do–from my heart, Martino, from my heart! For she had faith in me, she was kind to me, oh, kind and very gentle! She is as I–might have been, perchance, had life but proved a little kinder.”

After this she lay silent a great while and I thought her asleep until she questioned me again suddenly.

“She is a great lady in England–yes?”

“She is.”

“And yourself?”

“An outcast.”

“And you–loved each other–long since?”

“Long since.”

“But I have you at the last!” cried Joanna, exultant. “And nought shall part us now save death and that but for a little while! Dost curse thyself, Martino–dost curse thyself for saving me from the fire? But for this I had been dead and thou safe with thy loved Joan–dost curse thyself?”

“Nay, of what avail?”

Now, at this, she falls to sudden rage and revilings, naming me “stock-fish,” “clod,” “worm,” and the like and I (nothing heeding her), turning to behold the gathering clouds to windward, met the glare of Resolution’s fierce eye.

“Tell me,” cried Joanna, reaching out to nip my leg ‘twixt petulant fingers, “why must you brave the fire to save me you do so hate–tell me?”

“Yonder, as I judge, is much wind, Resolution!” said I, nodding towards a threatening cloud bank. Hereupon she struck at me with passionate fist and thereafter turns from me with a great sob, whereat Resolution growled and tapped his pistol butt.

“You were fool to save me!” cried she. “For I, being dead, might now be in happy circumstance and you with your Joan! You were a fool–“

“Howbeit you have your life,” said I.

“Life?” quoth she. “What is life to me but a pain, a grief I shall not fear to lose. Life hath ever brought me so much of evil, so little good, I were well rid of it that I might live again, to find perchance those joys but dim remembered that once were mine in better life than this. And now, if there be aught of food and drink aboard, Resolution, let us eat; then get you to sleep–you will be weary, yes.”

And surely never was stranger meal than this, Joanna and Resolution, the compass betwixt them, discussing winds, tides and weather, parallels of latitude and longitude, the best course to steer, etc., and I watching the ever-rising billows and hearkening to the piping of the wind.

Evening found us running through a troubled sea beneath an angry sky and the wind so loud I might hear nothing of my companions where they crouched together in the stern sheets. But suddenly Joanna beckoned me with imperious gesture:

“Look, Martino!” cried she, with hand outflung towards the billows that foamed all about us. “Yonder is a death kinder than death by the fire and yet I do fear this more than the fire by reason of this my hateful woman’s body. Now may you triumph over my weakness an you will, yet none can scorn it more than I–“

“God forbid!” said I and would have steadied her against the lurching of the boat, but Resolution, scowling at my effort, clasped her within his arm, shielding her as well as he might against the lashing spray, bidding me let be.

Thereafter and despite her sickness, she must needs stoop to cover me with the boat-cloak where I lay, and looking up at Resolution I saw his bronzed face glinted with moisture that was not of the sea.

CHAPTER XVIII

OF ROGER TRESSADY AND HOW THE SILVER WOMAN CLAIMED HER OWN AT LAST

Starting from sleep, instead of gloomy heaven and a desolation of tempestuous waters, I saw this:

The sun, newly up, shed his waxing glory on troubled waters deeply blue and fringed with foam where the waves broke upon a narrow strip of golden sand backed by trees and dense-growing green boskages infinite pleasant to the sight; and beyond these greeny tangles rose a hill of no great altitude, deep-bowered in trees and brush and flowering vines. And viewing all this peaceful loveliness with sleep-filled eyes, I thought it at first no more than idle dream; but presently, knowing it for reality, I felt my hard nature touched and thrilled (as it were) with a great rush of tenderness, for what with this glory of sun and the thousand sweet and spicy odours that wafted to us from this fair island, I sudden felt as if, borne on this well-remembered fragrance, came the sweet and gentle soul of my lady Joan, a haunting presence, sad and very plaintive, for it seemed she knew at last that nought henceforth might stay me from my vengeance. And in my ears seemed the whisper of her desolate cry:

“Martin–Oh, blind and more than blind! Alas, dear Martin!”

Now at this, despite the joy of sun and the gladness of birds that shrilled ‘mid the mazy thickets above, a great sadness took me and I bowed my head in gloomy thought.

“Forward there!”

Starting at this hoarse summons, I turned to behold Resolution crouched at the tiller, his great boat-cloak white with brine, his solitary eye scowling from me to the shore and back again.

“Ha, d’ye stir at last, sluggard? Here’s Joanna been direly sick–speak low, she sleeps at last, poor lass–and me stiff o’ my wounds, clemmed wi’ hunger and parched wi’ thirst, you a-snoring and a sea worse than Jonah’s afore they hove him to the whale–“

“Why not wake me, then?” I demanded, creeping aft and beholding Joanna where she lay slumbering, pale and worn beneath weather-stained cloak. “Why not rouse me, Resolution?”

“Because she forbade me and her word is my law, d’ye see? Reach me a sup o’ rum from the locker yonder.”

“You have brought us safe through the tempest, then,” said I, doing as he bade me.

“Aye, Joanna and I, and despite her qualms and sickness, poor lass, and you a-snoring!” Here, having drained the pannikin of rum, his eye lost something of its ferocity and he nodded. “Twice we came nigh swamping i’ the dark but the Lord interposed to save His own yet a little, and you a-snoring, but here was Joanna’s hand on the tiller and mine on the sail and plaguing the Almighty wi’ prayers of a righteous, meek, long-suffering and God-fearing man and behold, comrade, here we are, safe in the lee of Mizzen Island, and yonder is creek very apt to our purpose. So stand by to let go the halyard and ship oars when I give word, _amigo_.”

“She seems very worn with her sickness, Resolution!” said I, stooping to observe Joanna where she slumbered like one utterly exhausted.

“She is, friend!” he nodded. “She never could abide rough seas from a child, d’ye see, brother, and her wound troubleth her yet–but never a word o’ complaint, comrade–aha, a great soul, a mighty spirit is hers, for all her woman’s slenderness, Martin! Now, let fly your halyard, douse your sail–so! Now ship oars and pull, _camarado_, pull!”

Very soon, myself at the oars and Resolution steering, we crept in betwixt bush-girt rocks to a shelving, sandy beach. Hereupon, Resolution stooped to lift Joanna but finding his wounds irk him, beckoned to me:

“Come, friend,” said he. “You are lusty and strong, I do know–bear her ashore and tenderly, brother, tenderly!”

So I stooped and raising Joanna in my arms, climbed out of the boat (though with no little to-do) and bore her ashore towards the pleasant shade of flowering trees adjacent to the sea. Now presently she stirred in my embrace, and looking down at her, I saw her regarding me, great-eyed.

“Here do I rest for the second time, Martino,” she murmured. “I wonder–when the third shall be?”

“God knoweth!” said I; and being come to the trees, I laid her there as comfortably as I might and went to aid Resolution to secure the boat.

Having landed such things as we required and lighted a fire, while Resolution busied himself preparing a meal, I began to look about me and found this island marvellous fertile, for here on all sides flowers bloomed, together with divers fruits, as lemons, plantains, limes, grapes, a very wonder to behold. Now I chanced to reach a certain eminent place whence I might behold the general trend of the island; and now I saw that this was the smallest of three islands and remembered how Resolution had named them to me as Fore, Main and Mizzen islands. I was yet staring at these islands, each with its fringe of white surf to windward where the seas yet broke in foam, when my wandering gaze chanced to light on that which filled me with sudden and strange foreboding, for, plain to my view despite the distance, I saw the royal yards and topgallant masts of a great ship (so far as I could judge) betwixt Fore and Mainmast islands, and I very full of question as to what manner of ship this should be.

In my wanderings I chanced upon a little glen where bubbled a limpid stream amid a very paradise of fruits and flowers; here I sat me down well out of the sun’s heat, and having drunk my fill of the sweet water, fell to munching grapes that grew to hand in great, purple clusters. And now, my bodily needs satisfied and I stretched at mine ease within this greeny bower where birds whistled and piped joyously amid flowery thickets and the little brook leapt and sang as (one and all) vaunting the wondrous mercy of God, I, lying thus (as I say) surrounded by His goodly handiworks (and yet blind to their message of mercy) must needs set my wits to work and cast about in my mind how I might the soonest win free of this goodly place and set about the accomplishment of my vengeance. Once or twice I thought to hear Resolution hallooing and calling my name but, being drowsy, paid no heed and thus, what with the peace and comfort of my surroundings, I presently fell asleep.

But in my slumbers I had an evil dream, for I thought to hear a voice, hoarse yet tuneful, upraised in song, and voice, like the song, was one heard long ago, the which in my dreaming troubled me mightily, insomuch that I started up broad awake and infinitely glad to know this no more than idle fancy. Sitting up and looking about me, I saw the sun low and nigh to setting, and great was my wonder that I should have slept so long, yet I found myself vastly invigorated thereby and mightily hungered, therefore I arose, minded to seek my companions.

But scarce was I gone a yard than I stopped all at once, as from somewhere in the gathering shadows about me, plain to be heard, came the sound of a voice hoarse but tuneful, upraised in song, and these the words:

“Some by the knife did part wi’ life And some the bullet took O.
But three times three died plaguily A-wriggling on a hook O.
A hook both long and sharp and strong They died by gash o’ hook O.”

For a long time (as it seemed) I stood motionless with the words of this hateful chanty yet ringing in my brain, until the sun flamed seawards, vanished, and it was night. And here amid the gloom sat I, chin on knees, my mind busied upon a thousand memories conjured up by this evil song. At last, being come to a determination, I arose and, stumbling in the dark, made the best of my way towards that narrow, shelving beach where we had made our landing. In a little, through a tangle of leafy thickets, I espied the glow of a fire and heard a sound of voices; and going thitherwards, paused amid the leaves and hid thus, saw this fire was built at the mouth of a small cave where sat Joanna with Resolution at her elbow, while opposite them were five wild-looking rogues with muskets in their hands grouped about a tall, great fellow of a masterful, hectoring air, who stood staring down on Joanna, his right hand upon the silver-hafted dagger in his girdle and tapping at his square chin with the bright steel hook he bore in place of his left hand. And as he stood thus, feet wide apart, tapping at his chin with his glittering hook and looking down on Joanna, she, leaning back against the side of the cave, stared up at him eye to eye.

“So-ho!” quoth he at last. “So you are Captain Jo, eh–Captain Jo of the Brotherhood?”

“And you,” said she gently, “you are he that killed my father!”

Now here ensued a silence wherein none moved, it seemed, only I saw Resolution’s bony hand creep and bury itself in his capacious side pocket. Then, putting by the screening branches, I stepped forth into the firelight.

“What, Tressady,” said I, “d’ye cheat the gallows yet?”

Almost as I spoke I saw the flash and glitter of his whirling hook as he turned, pinning me with it through the breast of my doublet (but with so just a nicety that the keen point never so much as touched my skin) and holding me at arm’s length upon this hateful thing, he viewed me over, his pale eyes bright beneath their jut of shaggy brow. But knowing the man and feeling Joanna’s gaze upon me, I folded my arms and scowled back at him.

“Who be you, bully, who and what?” he demanded, his fingers gripping at the dagger in his girdle whose silver hilt was wrought to the shape of a naked woman. “Speak, my hearty, discourse, or kiss this Silver Woman o’ mine!”

“I am he that cut you down when you were choking your rogue’s life out in Adam Penfeather’s noose–along of Abnegation Mings yonder–“

As I spoke I saw Mings thrust away the pistol he had drawn and lean towards me, peering.

“Sink me!” cried he. “It’s him, Roger; ’tis Martin sure as saved of us from Penfeather, curse him, on Bartlemy’s Island three years agone–it’s him, Roger, it’s him!”

“Bleed me!” said Tressady, nodding. “But you’re i’ th’ right on’t, Abny. You ha’ th’ right on’t, lad. ‘Tis Marty, sure enough, Marty as was bonnet to me aboard the _Faithfull Friend_ and since he stood friend to us in regard to Adam Penfeather (with a’ curse!) it’s us shall stand friends t’ him. Here’s luck and a fair wind t’ ye, Marty!” So saying, he loosed me from his hook, and, clapping me on the shoulder, brought me to the circle about the fire.

“Oh, sink me!” cried Mings, flourishing a case-bottle under my nose. “Burn me, if this aren’t pure joy! I know a man as don’t forget past benefits and that’s Abnegation! Sit down, Martin, and let us eat and, which is better, drink together!”

“Why, so we will, Abny, so we will,” said Tressady, seating himself within reach of Joanna. “‘Twas pure luck us falling in wi’ two old messmates like Marty and Resolution and us in need of a few hell-fire, roaring boys! ‘Tis like a happy family, rot me, all love and good-fellowship and be damned! Come, we’ll eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow–we sail, all on us, aboard my ship _Vengeance_, as lieth ‘twixt Fore and Main islands yonder, ready to slip her moorings!”

“Avast, friend!” said Resolution, blinking his solitary eye at Tressady. “The captain o’ the Coast Brotherhood is Joanna here–Captain Jo, by the Brotherhood so ordained; ’tis Captain Jo commands here–“

“Say ye so, Resolution, say ye so, lad?” quoth Tressady, tapping at chin with glittering hook. “Now mark me–and keep both hands afore ye–so, my bully–hark’ee now–there’s none commands where I am save Roger Tressady!” said he, looking round upon us and with a flourish of his hook. “Now if so be any man thinks different, let that man speak out!”

“And what o’ Captain Jo?” demanded Resolution.

“That!” cried Tressady, snapping finger and thumb. “Captain Jo is not, henceforth–sit still, lad–so! Now lift his barkers, Abny–in his pockets. Still and patient, lad, still and patient!” So Resolution perforce suffered himself to be disarmed, while Joanna, pale and languid in the firelight, watched all with eyes that gleamed beneath drooping lashes.

“So now,” quoth Tressady, “since I command here, none denying–“

“And what o’ Captain Jo?” demanded Resolution.

“Why, I’ll tell ye, bully, look’ee now! A man’s a man and a woman’s a woman, but from report here’s one as playeth t’other and which, turn about. But ’tis as woman I judge her best, and as woman she sails along o’ me, lad, along o’ me!” So saying, he nodded and taking out a case-bottle, wrenched at the cork with his teeth.

“And how say you, Joanna?” questioned Abnegation.

“Tush!” said she, with a trill of laughter. “Here is one that talketh very loud and fool-like and flourisheth iron claw to no purpose, since I heed one no more than t’other–“

“Here’s death!” cried he fiercely, stabbing the air with his hook. “Death, wench!”

“Tush!” said she again, “I fear death no more than I fear you, and as for your claw–go scratch where you will!”

Goaded to sudden fury, he raised his hook and would have smitten the slender foot of her that chanced within his reach, but I caught his arm and wrenched him round to face me.

“Hold off, Tressady!” said I. “Here’s a man to fight an you’re so minded. But as for Joanna, she’s sick of her wounds and Resolution’s little better; but give me a knife and I’m your man!” And I sprang to my feet. Here for a moment Joanna’s eyes met mine full of that melting tenderness I had seen and wondered at before; then she laughed and turned to Tressady:

“Sick or no, I am Joanna and better than any man o’ you all, yes. Here shall be no need for fight, for look now, Tressady, though you are fool, you are one I have yearned to meet–so here’s to our better acquaintance.” And speaking, she leaned forward, twitched the bottle from his hand, nodded and clapped it to her mouth all in a moment.

As for Tressady, he gaped, scowled, fumbled with the dagger in his girdle, loosed it, slapped his thigh and burst into a roar of laughter.

“Oh, burn me, here’s a soul!” he cried. “‘Tis a wench o’ spirit, all hell-fire spirit and deviltry, rot me! Go to’t, lass, drink hearty–here’s you and me agin world and damn all, says I. Let me perish!” quoth he, when he had drunk the toast and viewing Joanna with something of respect. “Here’s never a man, woman or child dared so much wi’ Jolly Roger all his days–oh, sink me! Why ha’ we never met afore–you and me might rule the Main–“

“I do!” said she.

“And how came ye here–in an open boat?”

“By reason of Adam Penfeather!”

“What, Adam again, curse him!”

“He sank the _Happy Despatch_!”

“Burn me! And there’s a stout ship lost to us.”

“But then–we stayed to fight, yes!”

“What then?” said Tressady, clenching his fist. “Will ye say I ran away–we beat him off!”

“Howbeit Adam sank and took us, and swears to hang you soon or late–unless you chance to die soon!”

“Blind him for a dog–a dog and murderous rogue as shall bite on this hook o’ mine yet! A small, thieving rogue is Penfeather–“

“And the likest man to make an end o’ the Brotherhood that ever sailed!” nodded Joanna.

“Where lays his course?”

“Who knows!”

“And what o’ Belvedere?”

“Dead and damned for rogue and coward!”

“Why, then, drink, my bullies,” cried Tressady, with a great oath. “Drink battle, murder, shipwreck and hell-fire to Adam Penfeather, with a curse! Here’s us safe and snug in a good stout ship yonder, here’s us all love and good-fellowship, merry as grigs, happy as piping birds, here’s luck and long life to each and all on us.”

“Long life!” said Joanna, frowning. “‘Tis folly–I weary of it already!”

So we ate and drank and sprawled about the fire until the moon rose, and looking up at her as she sailed serene, I shivered, for to-night it seemed that in her pallid beam was something ominous and foreboding, and casting my eyes round about on motionless tree and shadowy thicket I felt my flesh stir again.

Now ever as the time passed, Tressady drew nearer and nearer to Joanna, until they were sitting cheek by jowl, he speaking quick and low, his pale eyes ever upon her, she all careless languor, though once I saw her take hold upon his gleaming hook and once she pointed to the dagger in his girdle and laughed; whereupon he drew it forth (that evil thing) and holding it up in her view fell suddenly a-singing:

“Oh, I’ve sought women everywhere
North, South and East and West;
And some were dark and some were fair But here’s what I love best!
Blow high, blow low, in weal or woe My Silver Woman’s best.”

Thus sang Tressady, looking from the languorous woman at his side to the languorous woman graven on the dagger-hilt and so thrust it back into his girdle.

And in a while Joanna rose, drawing the heavy boat-cloak about her shapeliness:

“There is a small bower I wot of down in the shadows yonder shall be my chamber to-night,” said she, staring up at the moon. “And so good night! I’m a-weary!” Then she turned, but doing so her foot touched Resolution’s leg where he sat, whereat he did strange thing, for at this soft touch he started, glanced up at her, his eye very wide and bright, and I saw his two powerful hands become two quivering fists, yet when he spoke his voice was calm and even.

“Good night, Joanna–fair dreams attend thee.” Then Joanna, eluding Tressady’s clutching hand, went her way, singing to herself very sweet and low.

Hereupon Tressady grew very boisterous and merry and perceiving Mings and his fellows inclined for slumber, roared them to wakefulness, bidding them drink with him and damning them for sleepy dogs. Yet in a while he fell silent also and presently takes out his dagger and begins fondling it. Then all at once he was on his feet, the dagger glittering evilly in his hand the while he glared from me to Resolution and back again.

“Good night, my bullies!” said he. “Good night–and let him follow that dare!” And with a sound ‘twixt a growl and a laugh, he turned and strode away, singing as he went. Now hereupon, nothing doubting his intent, I sprang to my feet and made to follow, but felt myself caught in an iron grip and stared down into the grim face of Resolution.

“Easy, friend–sit down, comrade–here beside me, brother.”

“Aye, truly, you were wiser, Martin!” said Mings, winking and tapping the pistol in his belt.

Now Resolution sat in the mouth of the small cave I have mentioned and I noticed he had slipped his right hand behind him and sat thus, very still, his gaze on the dying fire like one hearkening very eagerly for distant sounds, wherefore I did the like and thus, from somewhere amid the shadowy thickets, I heard Tressady sing again that evil song of his:

“Two by the knife did lose their life And three the bullet took O.
But three times three died plaguily A-wriggling–“

The singing ended suddenly and indescribably in a sound that was neither cry nor groan nor choke, yet something of each and very ghastly to be heard.

“What was yon!” cried Mings, starting and blinking sleep from his eyes to peer towards those gloomy thickets.

“What should it be but Captain Jo!” said Resolution; and now I saw his right hand, hid no longer, grasped a pistol levelled across his knees. “Sit still, all on ye,” he commanded. “Let a man move a leg and that man’s dead! Mark now what saith Davy. ‘He hath graven and digged a pit and is fallen himself into the destruction he made for others. For his travail shall come upon his own head and his wickedness fall on his own pate.'”

“Nay, look’ee,” says Mings, wiping sweat from him, “nay, but I heard somewhat–aye, I did, an unchancy sound–“

“Peace, Abnegation, peace!” quoth Resolution. “Mew not and hark to the words o’ Davy: ‘The Lord is known to execute judgment, the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands’–“

“Nay, but,” says Mings, pointing. “See–who comes yonder?”

And now we saw Joanna, a dark figure against the splendour of the moon, walking daintily, as was her wont, and as she came she falls a-singing that same evil song I had heard long ago:

“There’s a fine Spanish dame
And Joanna’s her name
Shall follow wherever ye go
Till your black heart shall feel
Your own cursed steel–“

She stopped suddenly and stood in the light of the fire, looking from one to the other of us with that smile I ever found so hateful.

“I am Joanna,” said she softly and nodding at Mings; “I am your Captain Jo and command here. Get you and your fellows aboard and wait my bidding.”

“Aye, aye!” said Mings in strangled voice, his eyes fixed and glaring. “But what o’ Cap’n Tressady? Where’s my comrade, Roger?”

From behind her back Joanna drew forth a slender hand, awfully bedabbled and let fall a reeking thing at Abnegation’s feet and I saw this for Tressady’s silver-hilted dagger.

“Black Tressady is dead!” said she. “I have just killed him!”

“Dead!” gasped Mings, shrinking. “Roger dead! My comrade–murdered–I–” Uttering a wild, passionate cry he whipped forth his pistol, but in that moment Resolution fired, and rising to his feet, Abnegation Mings groaned and pitched upon his face and lay mute and still.

“Glory to God!” said Resolution, catching up the dead man’s weapon and facing the others. “Come, my lads,” quoth he; “if Tressady be as dead as Mings, he can’t walk, wherefore he must be carried. And wherefore carried, you’ll ask? Says I, you shall take ’em along wi’ you. You shall bring ’em aboard ship, you shall tell your mates as Captain Jo sends these dead men aboard to show ’em she’s alive. So come and bring away Tressady first–march it is for Roger, and lively, lads!”

Now when they were gone, Joanna came beside me where I sat and stood a while, looking down on me in silence.

“He forced me to it!” said she at last. “Oh, Martino, there–was none other way. And he killed my father.”

But I not answering, she presently sighed and went away, leaving me staring where Mings lay huddled beyond the dying fire. And presently my gaze chanced to light on Tressady’s dagger of the Silver Woman where it lay, stained by his life’s blood, and leaping to my feet, I caught it up and sent the evil thing whirling and glittering far out to sea.

CHAPTER XIX

HOW JOANNA CHANGED HER MIND

“So there’s an end o’ Tressady and Mings and their fellows, comrade!” said Resolution, staring away into distant haze where showed the topsails of the _Vengeance_ already hull down. “And God’s will be done, says I, though here be we as must go solitary awhile and Joanna sick to death, comrade.”

“Resolution,” said I, staring up at his grim figure, “she schemed to lure Tressady to his death?”

“Aye, she did, brother. What other way was there? She hath wit womanish and nimble–“

“She smote him in the shadows–“

“Most true, friend! She hath a man’s will and determination!”

“He had no chance–“

“Never a whit, Martin! She is swift as God’s lightning and as infallible. Roger Tressady was an evil man and the evil within him she used to destroy him and all very right and proper! And now she lieth sick in the cave yonder and calls for you, brother.”

So I arose and coming within the cave found Joanna outstretched upon a rough bed contrived of fern and the boat-cloaks.

“Alas, Martino, I cannot sleep,” said she. “I am haunted by the man Tressady, which is surely very strange–oh, very strange. For he was evil like all other men save you and Resolution–and Adam Penfeather. Can you not say somewhat to my comfort? Did he not merit death?”

“Aye, most truly. Had you not killed him–I would.”

“For my sake, Martino?”

“Aye,” said I, “for yours.”

“Why, then ’tis strange I should grieve thus–I have killed men ere this, as you do know, nor troubled; belike ’tis my sickness–or the memory of my lady Joan–Damaris, her gentleness. Howbeit I am sorry and sad and greatly afraid.”

“Nay,” said I. “What should fright you that do fear nothing?”

“Myself, Martino–I have been–minded to kill you–more than once!”

“Yet do I live.”

“And yet do I fear!” said she, with a great sigh.

“And your wound pains you belike?”

“A little, Martino.”

“Show me!”

Mutely she suffered me to uncover her arm and unwind the bandages and I saw the tender flesh was very angry and inflamed, whereupon I summoned Resolution from his cooking, who at my desire brought the chest of medicines with water, etc., and set myself to soothe and cherish this painful wound as gently as I might, and though she often blenched for the pain of it she uttered no complaint.

“Do I hurt you overmuch?” I questioned.

“Nay,” said she, catching her breath for pain of it, “I am none so tender. D’ye mind how I burned the boat you had so laboured at?”

“Aye, I do!”

“And how I gave you an evil draught that was agony?”

“Aye, I do so!”

“And how I plagued you–“

“Nay, why remember all this, Joanna?”

“It helpeth me to endure this pain!”

When I had anointed and bound up her wound she must needs praise my skill and vow she was herself again and would be up and about, whereat Resolution reached down to aid her to rise, but this I would by no means suffer, telling her that she must rest and sleep the fever from her blood. At this she scowled, then all of a sudden laughed.

“Why, then, you shall stay and talk with me!”

“Rather shall Resolution mix you a sleeping draught.”

“Verily, brother, two have I mixed, but she’ll not take ’em!”

“Why, then, being two to one, we must force her to drink,” said I.

“Force her to drink, comrade? Force Joannas–God’s light–!”

“Mix the potion, man, or teach me!” So in the end Resolution did as I bade; then kneeling beside Joanna, I raised her upon my arm and set the pannikin to her lips, whereupon, though she frowned, she presently drank it off meekly enough, to Resolution’s no small wonder and her own, it seemed.

“I grow marvellous obedient!” said she. “And ’tis hateful stuff!”

“Now sleep,” quoth I. “‘Tis life to you–“

“Wouldst have me live, to plague you again, mayhap?” she questioned.

“This is as God wills!”

“Nay, this is as you will, Martino. Wouldst have me live, indeed?”

Now seeing how she hung upon my answer, beholding the wistful pleading of her look, I nodded.

“Aye, I would indeed!” said I.

“Why, then I will, Martino, I will!” And smiling, she composed herself to slumber and smiling, she presently fell asleep, whereupon Resolution crept stealthily out of the little cave and I after him. Being outside, he turned and suddenly caught and wrung my hand.

“Friend,” said he, his grim features relaxing to unwonted smile. “Brother, you are a man–the only man could ha’ done it. I thought Death had her sure last night, she all of a fever and crying out for Death to take her.”

“She’ll do better out in the air!” said I, glancing about.

“The air, comrade?”

“Aye, I must contrive her a shelter of sorts to her comfort where she may sleep. ‘Neath yonder tree should serve–“

“She’ll live, Martino, she’ll live and all by reason o’ her love for you–the promise you made her–“

“I made no promise, man!”

“Why, ’twas good as promise, comrade.”

“How so?”

“‘Wouldst ha’ me live,’ says she, ‘to plague you again,’ says she. ‘Aye, that would I indeed,’ says you! And what’s that but a promise, Martin?”

“God forgive you!” quoth I. “‘Twas no promise I intended, as you very well know.”

“Why, as to that, comrade, how if Joanna think as I think?”

“‘Twill be vain folly!” quoth I in petulant anger and strode away, leaving him to scowl after me, chin in hand.

Howbeit (and despite my anger) I presently took such tools as we had and set about making a small hut or rather bower, where an invalid might find such privacy as she wished and yet have benefit of the pure, sweet air rather than lie mewed in the stifling heat of the little cave. And presently, as I laboured, to me cometh Resolution full of praise for my handiwork and with proffer of aid. At this I turned to him face to face.

“Did I make Joanna any promise, aye or no?” I demanded.

“Aye, brother. You vowed Joanna must live to plague you, forsooth, how and when and where she would, comrade. In the which assured hope she lieth even now, sleeping herself to health and strength and all to pleasure you, Martin. And sure, oh, sure you are never one so vile to deceive the poor, sweet soul?”

Now perceiving all his specious sophistry and wilful misunderstanding of the matter, I came nigh choking with anger.

“Liar!” quoth I. “Liar!”

“Peace, brother, peace!” said he. “From any other man this were a fighting word, but as it is, let us reason together, brother! The Lord hath–“

“Enough!” cried I.

“Friend, the Lord hath set–“

“Leave Him out!” quoth I.

“What, Martin–will ye blaspheme now? Oh, shame on ye! ‘The mouth o’ the blasphemer is as an open sepulchre!’ But as I say, the Lord hath set you here i’ this flowery garden like Adam and her like Eve–“

“And yourself like the serpent!” said I.

“Ha’ done, Martin, ha’ done! ‘The Lord shall root out deceitful lips and the tongue that speaks proud things!’ mark that!”

“And mark you this, Resolution, an you fill Joanna’s head with aught of such folly, whatsoever sorrow or evil befalls her is upon your head.”

“Why, observe, friend and brother, for any man shall cause Joanna such, I have this, d’ye see!” And he showed me the butt of the pistol in his pocket; whereat I cursed him for meddlesome fool and turning my back went on with my labour, though my pleasure in it was gone. Howbeit I wrought this, rather than sit with idle hands, wasting myself in profitless repining. And presently, being intent on the business, I forgot all else and seeing this little bower was turning out much better than I had hoped, I fell a-whistling, until, hearing a step, I turned to find Joanna leaning upon Resolution’s arm and in her eyes such a look of yearning tenderness as filled me with a mighty disquiet.

“And have you–made this for–me, Martino?” she questioned, a little breathlessly.

“Aye,” I nodded, “because I do hate idleness–“

“Hark to him!” said Resolution. “And him picturing to me how snug you would lie here–“

“As to that, Resolution,” said I, scowling, “you can lie anywhere.”

“Why, true,” said he, ignoring my meaning. “Since Jo sleeps here, I shall sleep ‘neath the tree hard by, leaving you the cave yonder, friend.”

That night Joanna lay in the bower and from this time she mended apace, but as for me, with every hour my impatience to be gone grew upon me beyond all measure, and as the time passed I waxed surly and morose, insomuch that upon a day as I sat frowning at the sea, Joanna stole upon me and stooping, kissed my hand or ever I might stay her.

“Do I offend?” she questioned with a strange, new humility. “Ah, prithee, why art grown so strange to me?”

“I am as I always was!”

“Nay, in my sickness thou wert kind and gentle–“

“So should I have been to any other!”

“You builded me my little house?”

“I had naught else to do.”

“Martino,” said she, sinking on her knees beside me. “Oh, _caro mio_, if–if you could kiss me in my sickness when I knew naught of it–wherefore not now when I am all awake and full of life–“

“I never did!” said I, speaking on rageful impulse “If Resolution told you this, he lies!” At this she shrank as I had struck her.

“And did you not–kiss me in my sickness–once, no?”

“Never once!”

Here, bowing her head upon her hands, she rested silent awhile.

“Nay, Joanna, wherefore seek the impossible. In these latter days I have learned to–to respect you–“

“Respect!” cried she, clenching her fists, “Rather give me hate; ’twere easier endured–“

“Why, then, this island is a rendezvous for the Brotherhood, soon will you have friends and comrades; give me then the boat and let me go–“

“To seek her? Nay, that you shall never do. I will kill you first, yes–for the cold, passionless thing you are!” So she left me and knowing that she wept, I felt greatly heartsick and ashamed.

Now the little cave wherein I slept gave upon that stretch of sandy beach where lay the boat and this night the weather being very hot and no wind stirring, I came without the cave and sat to watch the play of moonlight on the placid waters and hearken to their cool plash and ripple. Long time I sat thus, my mind full of foreboding, mightily cast down and hot with anger against Resolution, whose subtle lies had set Joanna on this vain folly of love, teaching her hopes for that which might never be; and guessing some of her pain therefor, I grieved for her and felt myself humbled that I (though all unwitting) should cause her this sorrow.

Sitting thus, full of heavy thoughts, my gaze by chance lighted upon the boat and, obeying sudden impulse, I arose and coming hither, fell to sudden temptation, for here she lay afloat; once aboard it needed but to slip her moorings and all these my present troubles would be resolved. And yet (thinks I) by so doing I should leave two people on this solitary island cut off from their kind. And yet again they run no chance of hardship or starvation, God knows, and this being a known meeting-place for their fellows, they shall not lack for company very long.

I was yet debating this in my mind when, roused by a sound behind me, I turned to find Resolution scowling on me and pistol in hand.

“Ha!” said he ‘twixt shut teeth, “I ha’ been expecting this and watched according. So you’ll steal the boat, will ye–leave us marooned here, will ye?”

“I haven’t decided yet!” quoth I.

“And what’s to let me from shooting ye?”

“Nought in the world,” said I, watching for a chance to close with him, “only bear witness I have not touched rope or timber yet–“

“‘Tis a rule o’ the Coast to shoot or hang the like o’ you!” quoth he, and I heard the sharp click of the pistol as he cocked it and then with a flutter of petticoats Joanna burst upon us.

“Resolution, what is’t?” she questioned breathlessly, looking from one to other of us.

“He was for stealing the boat, Jo!”

“Is this true?” she demanded, her face set and very pale. But here, seeing speech was vain, I shook my head and turning my back on them came into my cave and cast myself down on my rough bed. Lying thus I heard the murmur of their talk a great while, yet I nothing heeded until Joanna spoke close without the cave.

“Bide you there, Resolution!” Then the moonlight was dimmed and I saw her form outlined in the mouth of the cave.

“What would you, Joanna?” said I, starting up.

“Talk with you a small while,” said she and came where we might behold each other. “Nay, do not fear. I will come no nearer, only I would speak to you now as I would speak if I lay a-dying, I would have you answer as you would if–if Death stood ready to strike these our bodies and bear our souls out to the infinite and a better life.”

“Speak!” said I, wondering to see her shaken as by an ague-fit.

“You do not–love me, then? No?”

“No.”

“You–never could love me, mind and heart and body? No?”

“No.”

“You could not endure me beside you, to–to live–with me near you?”

“‘Twould mean only pain, Joanna.”

“Then go!” cried she. “I am not so base-souled to weep and wheedle, to scheme and pray for thing that can never be truly mine, or to keep you here in hated bondage–go! The boat lieth yonder; take her and what you will–only–get you gone!”

Now at this I rose and would have taken her hands but she snatched them behind her, and now I wondered at her deathly pallor,–her very lips were pale and set.

“Joanna,” I stammered, “do you mean–am I–“

“Go!”

“Nay, first hear me say that wheresoever I go needs must I–“

“Respect me!” cried she with a strange, wild laugh. “Oh, begone!”

“Joanna,” said I, “for any harsh word I have spoke you in the past, for any pain you have suffered because of me, I do most surely grieve and would most humbly crave your forgiveness and for this generous act I–I–“

“Respect me?” said she in a small voice. “Ah, cannot you see–how you–hurt me?” And now all suddenly I did strange thing for, scarce knowing what I did, I caught her in my arms and kissed her hair, her eyes, her cold lips and then, half ashamed, turned to leave her.

“Stay!” said she, but I never heeded. “Martino!” she called, but I never paused; and then, being come to the mouth of the cave, I heard the quick, light sound of her feet behind me and as I stepped into the moonlight felt two arms that swung me aside, saw Joanna leap before me as the night-silence was split by a ringing, deafening roar; and then I had her in my arms and she, smiling up at me with blood upon her lips, hid her face in my breast. “Here in thine arms do I lie for the third time–and last, Martino!” she sighed, and so Resolution found us.

“What!” he gasped. “Oh, God! What–?”

“Some one has shot Joanna!”

“Aye, Martin, ’twas I!” and I saw the pistol yet smoking in his hand–“I shot her thinking ’twas you–Oh, God!”

“Nay, Resolution,” said Joanna, opening her eyes. “You did very right–’twas only that I–being a woman–changed my mind–at the last. ‘Twas I bid him–kill you, Martino–if you came forth, but I–I dreamed you–you would not leave me. Nay, let be, Resolution, I’m a-dying–yes!”

“Ah, forbid it, God–Oh, God of Mercies, spare her!” he cried, his hands and eyes uplift to the radiant, starry heavens.

“Nay, grieve not, Resolution–dear friend!” she murmured painfully. “For oh, ’tis–a good thing to die–by your hand and with–such reason! Martino, when–you shall wed your Joan–Damaris, say I–gave you to her with–my life because I loved you–better than life–and Death had–no fears. I go back to life–a better life–where I shall find you one day, Martino, and learn what–happiness is like–mayhap. Resolution,” she whispered, “when I–am dead, do not let me lie a poor, pale thing to grieve over–bury me–bury me so soon as I–am dead. Dig me a grave–above the tide! Promise this!”

“I promise!”

“Now kiss me–you were ever true and kind–kiss me? And you, Martino, wilt kiss me–not in gratitude–this last time?” And so I kissed her and thereafter she lay silent awhile, looking up at me great-eyed.

“Somewhere,” she whispered, “some day–we shall–meet again, beloved–but now is–farewell. Oh, ’tis coming–’tis coming, Martino!” And then in stronger voice, “Oh, Death!” she cried. “Oh, welcome Death–I do not fear thee! Lift me, Martino–lift me–let me die–upon my feet!”

Very tenderly we lifted her betwixt us and then suddenly with a soft, murmurous cry, she lifted her arms to the glory of the wide firmament above us and with shuddering sigh let them slowly fall, and with this sigh the strange, wild soul of her sped away back to the Infinite whence it had come.

And now Resolution, on his knees beside this slender form that lay so mute and still, broke out into great and awful sobs that were an agony to hear.

“Dead!” he gasped. “Oh, God–dead! And by my hand! I that loved her all her days–that would ha’ died for her–Oh, smite me, merciful God–cast forth Thy lightnings–shoot forth Thine arrows and consume me an Thou be merciful indeed.” All at once he arose and hasting away on stumbling feet, presently came back again, bearing spade and mattock.

“Come, friend,” said he in strange, piping tones. “Come now, let us dig grave and bury her, according to my promise. Come, brother!” Now looking on him as he stood all bowed and shaking, I saw that he was suddenly become an old man; his twisted frame seemed shrunken, while spade and mattock shook and rattled in his palsied hands. “Come, lad, come!” cried he querulously. “Why d’ye gape–bring along the body; ’tis nought else! Ah, God, how still now, she that was so full o’ life! Bring her along to high water-mark and tenderly, friend, ah, tenderly, up wi’ her to your heart!” So I did as he bade and followed Resolution’s bowed and limping form till he paused well above where any sea might break and hard beside a great rock.

“She’ll lie snug here, friend,” quoth he, “snug against howling wind and raging tempest!” So together we dug the grave deep within that shelving, golden sand, and laying her tenderly therein, knelt together while the moon sank and shadows lengthened; and when Resolution had recited the prayers for the dead, he broke into a passion of prayer for himself, which done we rose and plied spade and mattock in silence; nor would Resolution pause or stay until we had raised mound sufficiently high to please him. When at last all was completed to his satisfaction, he dropped his spade and wiping sweat from him seated himself beside the grave, patting the mound very tenderly with his open palm.

“The moon is wondrous bright, friend,” said he, staring up at it, “but so have I seen it many a night; but mark this, never in all our days shall we see again the like o’ her that sleeps, Martino, that sleeps–below here!” And here he falls to soft mutterings and to patting that small mound of sand again.