This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 1921
Collection:
Tags:
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

“Come!” said I at last, touching his bowed shoulder. “Come!”

“Where away, _camarado_?” he questioned, looking up at me vacantly. “Nay, I’m best here–mayhap she’ll be lonesome-like at first, so I’ll bide here, lad, I’ll bide here a while. Go your ways, brother, and leave old Resolution to pray a little, aye–and, mayhap weep a little, if God be kind.”

So in the end I turned, miserably enough, and left him crouched there, his head bowed upon his breast. And in my mind was horror and grief and something beside these that filled me with a great wonder. Reaching the cave, I saw the sand there all trampled and stained with the blood she had shed to save mine own, and hard beside these, the print of her slender foot. And gazing thus, I was of a sudden blinded by scorching tears, and sinking upon my knees I wept as never before in all my days. And then sprang suddenly to my feet as, loud upon the air, rang out a shot that seemed to echo and re-echo in my brain ere, turning, I began to run back whence I had come.

And so I found Resolution face down across the mound that marked Joanna’s grave, his arms clasped about it and on his dead face the marks of many tears.

CHAPTER XX

I GO TO SEEK MY VENGEANCE

Next day, just as the sun rose, I buried Resolution ‘twixt Joanna and the sea, yet over him I raised no mound, since I judged he would have it so. Thereafter I ate and drank and stored the boat with such things as I needed for my voyage and particularly with good supply of fruits. And now, though the wind and tide both served me, I yet lingered, for it seemed that the spirit of Joanna still tarried hereabouts. Moved by sudden desire, I began searching among the tumbled boulders that lay here and there and presently finding one to my purpose, urged it down the sloping beach and with infinite pains and labour contrived at last to set it up at the head of Joanna’s resting-place. Then, taking hammer and chisel, I fell to work upon it, heedless of sun-glare, of thirst, fatigue or the lapse of time, staying not till my work was complete, and this no more than two words cut deep within the enduring stone; these:

JOANNA

VNFEARING

And now at last, the tide being on the turn, I unmoored the boat, and thrusting her off, clambered aboard and betook me to the oars, and ever as I rowed I kept my gaze upon that small, solitary heap of sand until it grew all blurred upon my sight. Having presently made sufficient headway, I unshipped oars and hoisting my sail, stood out into the immeasurable deep but with my eyes straining towards that stretch of golden sand where lay all that was mortal of Joanna.

And with my gaze thus fixed, I must needs wonder what was become of the fiery, passionate spirit of her, that tameless soul that was one with the winds and stars and ocean, even as Resolution had said. And thus I presently fell a-praying and my cheek wet with tears that I thought no shame. When I looked up, I saw that the narrow strip of beach was no longer in sight; Joanna had verily gone out of my life and was but a memory.

All afternoon I held on before a fair wind so that as the sun sank I saw the three islands no more than a faint speck on the horizon; wherefore, knowing I should see them no more in this life, I uncovered my head, and thus it was indeed I saw Joanna’s resting-place for the last time.

And now as the sun slipped westward and vanished in glory, even now as night fell, I had a strange feeling that her spirit was all about me, tender and strong and protecting, and herein, as the darkness gathered, I found great comfort and was much strengthened in the desperate venture I was about.

Having close-reefed my sail and lashed the tiller, I rolled myself in a boat-cloak and, nothing fearing, presently fell asleep and dreamed Joanna sat above me at the helm, stooping to cover me from the weather as she had done once before.

Waking next morning to a glory of sun, I ate and drank (albeit sparingly) and fell to studying Adam’s chart, whereby I saw I must steer due southwesterly and that by his calculation I should reach the mainland in some five or six days. Suffice it that instead of five days it was not until the tenth day (my water being nigh exhausted and I mightily downcast that I had sailed out of my proper course) that I discovered to my inexpressible joy a faint, blue haze bearing westerly that I knew must be the Main. And now the wind fell so that it was not until the following morning that I steered into a little, green bay where trees grew to the very water’s edge and so dense that, unstepping my mast, I began paddling along this green barrier, looking for some likely opening, and thus presently came on a narrow cleft ‘mid the green where ran a small creek roofed in with branches, vines and twining boughs, into which I urged my boat forthwith (and no little to-do) and passed immediately from the hot glare of sun into the cool shade of trees and tangled thickets. Having forced myself a passage so far as I might by reason of these leafy tangles, my next thought was to select such things as I should need and this took me some time, I deeming so many things essential since I knew not how far I might have to tramp through an unknown country, nor in what direction Nombre de Dios lay. But in the end I narrowed down my necessities to the following, viz:

A compass
A perspective-glass
A sword
Two pistols
A gun with powder-horn and shot for same A light hatchet
A tinder-box and store of buccaned meat.

And now, having belted on sword and pistols and wrapping the other things in one of the boat-cloaks, I strapped the unwieldy bundle to my shoulders and taking up the gun, scrambled ashore, and having found my bearing, set off due southwesterly.

Hour after hour I struggled on, often having to hew myself a passage with my axe, until towards evening I came out upon a broad ride or thoroughfare amid the green, the which greatly heartened me, since here was evidence of man’s handiwork and must soon or late bring me to some town or village; forthwith, my weariness forgotten, I set off along this track, my face set ever westwards; but presently my vaunting hopes were dashed to find the track could be very little used nowadays, since here and there great trees had fallen and lay athwart my going, and presently the way itself narrowed to a mere path and this crossed here and there by hanging vines which was sure proof that few, if any, had passed this way these many months, mayhap years. Hereupon I stopped to lean despondent on my gun and looked about me; and with dejection of mind came weariness of body and seeing night was at hand, I determined to go no farther and turned in among the trees, minded to sleep here, though the place was wild and forbidding enough.

I had just loosed off my heavy pack when the pervading stillness was broken by a wailing cry, so sudden, so shrill and evil to hear that my flesh crept and I huddled against a tree, peering into the deepening shadows that had begun to hem me in. At first I judged this some wild beast and reached for my musket; then, as the sound rose again, I knew this for human cry, for I heard these words:

“Mercy, señors, mercy for the love o’ God!”

Hereupon I began to run towards whence came this dismal outcry and presently espied the glow of a fire, and creeping thither discovered four men grouped about a fifth and him fast bound to a tree, and this poor wretch they were torturing with a ramrod heated in the fire; even as I watched he writhed and screamed for the intolerable pain of it. Staying for no more, I burst upon them and levelling my piece at the chief tormentor, pulled the trigger, whereupon was no more than a flash of the flint; it seemed that in my hurry to begone I had forgotten to load it. Howbeit, loaded or not, it served me well enough, for, swinging it by the barrel, I was upon them or ever they were aware and smote down two of the rogues, whereupon their comrades betook them to their heels with the utmost precipitation. I therefore proceeded to cut the sufferer loose who, sinking to the earth, lay there, muttering and groaning.

“Are ye much hurt?” I questioned, stooping above him: whereupon he spat forth a string of curses by which I judged him English and very far from dying as I had feared. I now found myself master of four very good guns, a sword, a steel headpiece, two cloaks and other furniture, with food a-plenty and three flasks of wine. I was yet examining these and watching against the return of their late owners when, hearing a sound, I saw the late poor captive bending above the two men I had felled.

“Are they dead?” I questioned.

“Nay, not yet, master; give ’em six minutes or say ten and they’ll be as dead as the pig you ate of last–“

“How so?” I demanded, staring at the wild, ragged figure of the speaker.

“By means o’ this, master!” said he, and stooping towards the fire showed me a middling-sized black thorn upon his open palm. “Not much to look at, master–no, but ’tis death sure and sarten, howsomever. I’ve many more besides; I make ’em into darts and shoot ’em through a blowpipe–a trick I larned o’ the Indians. Aye, I spits ’em through a pipe–which is better than your guns–no noise, no smoke, and sure death wherever it sticketh.”

“Are you an Englishman?”

“I am that! Born within sound o’ Bow Bells; ’tis all o’ twenty years since I heard ’em but they ring in my dreams sometimes. I shipped on a venture to the Main twenty years ago and fought and rioted as a man may and by ill-luck fell into the hands o’ the bloody Spaniards along o’ six other good lads–all dead long since, master. Then the Inquisition got me and was going to burn me but not liking the thought on’t, I turned Roman. Then they made me a slave, but I got away at last. Aha, all Spanishers are devils for cruelty, but their Churchmen are worst and of all their Churchmen the coldest, softest, bloodiest is Alexo Valdez, Chief Inquisitor of Nombre de Dios yonder–“

“Ha, you know Nombre de Dios?”

“I ha’ lived and suffered there, master, and ’tis there I be a-going for to make an end o’ Bloody Valdez, if God be kind.”

“Then,” said I, “we will travel so far together–“

“And what doth an Englishman the like o’ you want with the accursed place; the Inquisition is strong there–“

“‘Tis a matter of life and death,” said I.

“Death!” said he, “Death–they should all be dead and rotting, if I had my way.” So saying, this strange man, whose face I had scarce seen, laid him down beyond the fire and composed himself to slumber.

“How then,” I demanded, “will ye sleep here in the wild and no watch?”

“I will that!” said he. “I know the wilderness and I have endured much o’ hardship o’ late and as to watching, there’s small need. The rogues you fell upon, being Spaniards, will doubtless be running yet and nigh unto Nombre, by now.”

“How far is it hence?”

“Twelve leagues by road, but less the ways I travel.”

“Good!” said I.

“Though ’tis hard going.”

“No matter.”

“Why, then, sleep, for we march at dawn. And my name is John.”

“And mine Martin.”

“Why, then, Martin, good night.”

“Good night, John.”

Howbeit though (and despite his hurts) my companion presently slept and snored lustily, and though I kept myself awake and my weapons to hand, yet I fell a-nodding and at last, overcome with weariness, sank to sleep likewise.

I waked to find the sun up and the man John shaking me, a wild, unlovely, shaggy fellow, very furtive of eye and gesture, who cringed and cowered away as I started up.

“Lord, man,” quoth I, “I am no enemy!”

“I know it!” said he, shaking tousled head. “But ’tis become nat’ral to me to slink and crawl and blench like any lashed cur, all along o’ these accursed Spaniards; I’ve had more kicks and blows than I’ve lived days,” he growled, munching away at the viands he had set forth.

“Have ye suffered so much then?”

“Suffered!” cried he with a snarl. “I’ve done little else. Aha, when I think o’ what I’ve endured, I do love my little blowpipe–“

“Blowpipe?” I questioned.

“Aye–this!” And speaking, from somewhere among the pitiful rags that covered his lank carcase he drew forth a small wooden pipe scarce two foot long and having a bulbous mouthpiece at one end. “The Indians use ’em longer than this–aye, six foot I’ve seen ’em, but then, Lord! they’ll blow ye a dart from eighty to a hundred paces sometimes, whereas I never risk shot farther away than ten or twenty at most; the nearer the surer, aha!” Hereupon he nodded, white teeth agleam through tangled beard, and with a swift, stealthy gesture hid the deadly tube in his rags again.

“What of the two Spaniards I struck down last night?” I questioned, looking vainly for them.

“In the bushes yonder,” said he and with jerk of thumb. “I hid ’em, master, they being a little unsightly–black and swol–as is the natur’ o’ this poison!” Hereupon I rose and going whither he pointed, parted the undergrowth and saw this was indeed so, insomuch that my stomach turned and I had no more desire for food.

“You murdered those men!”

“Aye, that I did, master, an you call it murder. Howbeit, there’s more shall go the same road yet, notably Alexo Valdez, a curse on him!”

“And you are an Englishman?”

“I was, but since then I’ve been slave to be whipped, dog to be kicked, Lutheran dog to be spat upon, and lastly Indian–“

“And what now?”

“A poor soul to be tormented, shot, hanged, or burned as they will, once I’m taken.”

“And yet you will adventure yourself to Nombre de Dios?”

“Why, Alexo Valdez is lately come there and Alexo Valdez burned my friend Dick Burbage, as was ‘prentice wi’ me at Johnson’s, the cutler’s, in Friday Street nigh St. Paul’s, twenty odd years agone.”

And in a while, being ready to start, I proffered this wild fellow one of the Spaniard’s guns, but he would have none of it, nor sword, nor even cloak to cover his rags, so in the end we left all things behind, and there they be yet, for aught I know.

Now as we journeyed on together, in answer to my questioning I learned from this man John something of the illimitable pride and power of the Church of Rome; more especially he told me of the Spanish Inquisition, its cold mercilessness and passionless ferocity, its unsleeping watchfulness, its undying animosity, its constant menace and the hopelessness of escape therefrom. He gave me particulars of burnings and rackings, he described to me the torments of the water, the wheel and the fire until my soul sickened. He told me how it menaced alike the untrained savage, the peasant in his hut and the noble in his hall. I heard of parents who, by reason of this corroding fear, had denounced their children to the torment and children their parents.

“Aye, and there was a Donna Bianca Vallambrosa, a fine woman, I mind, was suspected of Lutheranism–so they racked her and she in torment confessed whatsoever they would and accused her sister Donna Luisa likewise. So they burned ’em both and made ’em pay for stake and chain and faggots too, afore they died.”

Many other horrors he recounted, but ever and always he came back to the name of Alexo Valdez to vomit curses upon until at last I questioned him as to what manner of man this was to behold.

“Master,” said John, turning to regard me, every hair upon his sunburned face seeming to bristle, “think o’ the most sinful stench ever offended you, the most loathly corruption you ever saw and there’s his soul; think o’ the devil wi’ eyes like dim glass, flesh like dough and a sweet, soft voice, and you have Alexo Valdez inside and out, and may every curse ever cursed light on and blast him, says I!”

“Are there many English prisoners in the Inquisition at Nombre?”

“Why, I know of but one–though like enough there’s more–they are so cursed secret, master.”

“Did ye ever hear of an English gentleman lost or taken hereabouts some six years since and named Sir Richard Brandon?”

“Nay, I was slaving down Panama way six years ago. Is it him you come a-seeking of, master?”

“Aye,” I nodded. “A very masterful man, hale and florid and of a full habit.”

“Nay, the only Englishman ever I see in Nombre was old and bent wi’ white hair, and went wi’ a limp, so it can’t be him.”

“No!” said I, frowning. “No!” After this, small chance had we for talk by reason of the difficulty of our going, yet remembering all he had told, I had enough to think on, God knows.

We had now reached a broken, mountainous country very trying and perilous, what with torrents that foamed athwart our way, jagged boulders, shifting stones and the like, yet John strode on untiring; but as for me, what with all this, the heat of sun and the burden I carried, my breath began to labour painfully. The first thing I tossed away was my gun that fell, ringing and clattering, down the precipitous rocks below, and the next was my pack and thereafter my hatchet and pistols, so that by the time we reached the top of the ascent all I had to encumber me was my sword, and this I kept, since it was light and seemingly a good blade.

“Master,” said John, with a flourish of his ragged arm, “here’s freedom–here’s God. A land o’ milk and honey given over to devils–curse all Spanishers, say I!”

Now looking around me I stood mute in wonder, for from this height I might behold a vast stretch of country, towering mountains, deep, shady valleys, impenetrable woods, rushing rivers, wide-stretching plains and far beyond a vague haze that I knew was the sea.

“And yonder, master,” said John, pointing with his blowpipe, “yonder lieth Nombre, though ye can’t see it, the which we shall reach ere nightfall, wherefore it behoveth me to look to my artillery.”

So saying, he squatted down upon his hams and from his rags produced a small gourd carefully wrapped about with leaves; unwinding these, I saw the gourd to contain a sticky, blackish substance.

“Aha!” said John, viewing this with gloating eyes. “Snake poison is mother’s milk to this, master. Here’s enough good stuff to make pocky corpses o’ every cursed Spanisher in Nombre ere sunset. Here’s that might end the sufferings o’ the poor Indians, the hangings, burnings and mutilations. I’ve seen an Indian cut up alive to feed to the dogs afore now–but here’s a cure for croolty, master!”

While speaking, he had laid on the ground before him some dozen or so little darts no longer than my finger, each armed with a needle-like point and feathered with a wad of silky fibres; the point of each of these darts he dipped into the poison one after the other and laid them in the sun to dry, which done he wrapped up the little gourd mighty carefully and thrust it back among his rags. And in a while, the poison on the darts or arrows being dried to his satisfaction, he took forth a small leathern quiver of native make and setting the missiles therein, shut down the lid securely and sprang to his feet.

“Here’s sure death and sarten for some o’ the dogs, master,” quoth he, “and now if there truly be a God aloft there, all I ask is one chance at Alexo Valdez as burns women and maids, as tortures the innocent, as killed my friend and druv me into the wild–one chance, master, and I’m done!”

Thus he spake with eyes uplift and one hairy hand upraised to the serene heavens, then with a nod to me set off along the hazardous track before us.

Of this, the last stage of our journeying, I will make no mention save that footsore, bruised and weary I sank amid a place of trees and gloomy thickets as the sun went down and night came.

“Straight afore you about half a mile lieth Nombre, master!” said John in my ear. “Hearken! You may hear the dogs like bees in a hive and be cursed to ’em!”

And sure enough I heard an indistinct murmur of sound that was made up of many; and presently came others more distinct; the faint baying of a hound, the distant roll of a drum, the soft, sweet tolling of a bell.

“So here y’are, master, and good luck t’ye!” said John and with scarce a rustle, swift and stealthy as an Indian, he was gone and I alone in the gloom. Hereupon I debated with myself whether I should get me into the city straight away or wait till the morrow, the which question was resolved by my falling into a sweet and dreamless slumber.

CHAPTER XXI

HOW I CAME TO NOMBRE DE DIOS

I awoke to the glare of a light and, starting up, was smitten to my knees and, lying half-stunned, was conscious of voices loud and excited, of hands that wrenched me here and there. And now (my hands securely trussed) I was hauled up and marched on stumbling feet amid shadowy captors, all of whom seemed to talk excitedly and none to listen, the which I little heeded being yet dazed by the blow. And presently I was aware of a dim street where lights gleamed, of tall buildings, an open square and a shadowy pile soaring upward into the dark. And presently from the surrounding gloom a darker figure stole, slow-moving and silent, at sight of which my captors halted to kneel, one and all, with bowed heads, whereupon the form raised a shadowy arm in salutation or blessing. And then a voice spake in sonorous Spanish, very soft and low and sweet, yet a voice that chilled me none the less:

“Whom bring ye?”

Here came voices five or six, speaking also in Spanish, and amid this babel I caught such words as:

“A stranger, holy father!”

“An Englishman!”

“A Lutheran dog!”

“Follow!” the sweet voice commanded, whereupon up sprang my captors and hauled me along and so presently into a spacious hall with a dais at one end where stood a table and great elbow-chair; but what drew and held my gaze was the slender, dark-robed ecclesiastic that, moving on leisured, soundless feet, went on before until, reaching the table, he seated himself there, head bowed upon one hand; and thus he sat awhile then beckoned with one imperious finger, whereupon my captors led me forward to the dais.

“Begone!” spake the pleasant voice and immediately my captors drew away and presently were gone, leaving me staring upon the tonsured crown of the man at the table who, with head still bowed upon his hand, struck a silver bell that stood beside him. Scarce had the sound died away than I heard a stealthy rustling and beheld divers forms that closed silently about me, figures shrouded from head to foot in black habits and nought of them to see save their hands and the glitter of eyes that gazed on me through the holes of them black, enveloping hoods.

Now turning to him at the table, I saw that he had raised his head at last and was viewing me also, and as he stared on me so stared I on him and this is what I saw: A lean and pallid face with eyes dim and slumberous, a high nose with nostrils thin and curling, a wide, close-lipped mouth and long, pointed chin. When we had stared thus a while, he leaned him back in the great chair and spoke me in his soft, sweet voice:

“You are English, señor?”

“I am!” said I in Spanish.

“What do you here?”

“Seek another Englishman known to be prisoner to the Inquisition of Nombre de Dios.”

“His name?”

“Richard Brandon. Is he here?”

“Are you of the Faith?”

“Of all or any save that of Rome!” said I, staring up into the pale, emotionless face. “But Rome I do abominate and all its devil’s work!” At this, from the hooded figures about me rose a gasp of horror and amaze, while into the dim eyes of my questioner came a momentary glow.

“Oh, fleshly lips!” quoth he. “Oh, tongue of blasphemy damned. Since you by the flesh have sinned, so by the flesh, its pains and travail, must your soul win forgiveness and life hereafter. Oh, vain soul, though your flesh hath uttered damnable sin and heresy, yet Holy Church in its infinite mercy shall save your soul in despite sinful flesh, to which end we must lay on your evil flesh such castigation as shall, by its very pain, purge your soul and win it to life hereafter–“

But now, and even as the black-robed familiars closed upon me, I heard steps behind me, a clash of arms and thereafter a voice whose calm tones I recognised.

“What is this, Father Alexo?”

“An Englishman and blasphemous Lutheran, captured and brought hither within the hour, Your Excellency.” Now here the familiars, at sign of Fra Alexo, moved aside, and thus I beheld to my surprise and inexpressible joy, Don Federigo, pale from his late sickness, the which the sombre blackness of his rich velvet habit did but offset; for a moment his eyes met mine and with no sign of recognition, whereupon I checked the greeting on my lips.

“And am I of so little account as not to be warned of this?” said he.

“Alas, Excellency, if I have something forgot the respect due your high and noble office, let my zeal plead my excuse. In your faithful charge do we leave this miserable one until Holy Church shall require him of you.” So saying, Fra Alexo, crossing lean hands meekly on his bosom, bowed himself in humble fashion, and yet I thought to see his dull eyes lit by that stealthy glow as Don Federigo, having duly acknowledged his salutation, turned away.

Thence I was led into the soft night air to a noble house, through goodly chambers richly furnished and so at last to a small room; and ever as I went I had an uneasy feeling that a long, black robe rustled stealthily amid the shadows, and of dull eyes that watched me unseen, nor could I altogether shake off the feeling even when the door closed and I found myself alone with Don Federigo. Indeed it almost seemed as he too felt something of this, for he stood a while, his head bowed and very still, like one listening intently; suddenly he was before me, had grasped my two fettered hands, and when he spake it was in little more than whisper.

“Alas, Don Martino–good my friend, Death creepeth all about you here–“

“Fra Alexo’s spies!” I nodded. Now at this he gave me a troubled look and fell to pacing to and fro.

“A hard man and cunning!” quoth he, as to himself. “The Church–ah, the power of the Church! Yet must I get you safe away, but how–how?”

“Nay, Don Federigo, never trouble.”

“Trouble, Señor? Ah, think you I count that? My life is yours, Don Martino, and joyfully do I risk it–“

“Nay, sir,” quoth I, grasping his hand, “well do I know you for brave and noble gentleman whose friendship honoureth me, but here is no need you should hazard your life for me, since I am here of my own will. I have delivered myself over to the Inquisition to the fulfilment of a purpose.”

“Sir,” said he, his look of trouble deepening. “Alas, young sir–“

“This only would I ask of your friendship–when they take me hence, see to it that I am set in company with one that lieth prisoned here, see that I am fettered along with Sir Richard Brandon. And this do I ask of your friendship, sir!”

“Alas!” said he. “Alas, ’tis out of my jurisdiction; you go hence you are lost–you do pass from the eye of man–none knoweth whither.”

“So long as I come unto mine enemy ’tis very well, sir. ‘Tis this I have prayed for, lived for, hoped and suffered for. Wherefore now, Don Federigo, in memory of our friendship and all that hath passed betwixt us, I would ask you to contrive me this one thing howsoever you may.”

At this he fell to his walking again and seemingly very full of anxious thought. Presently he sounded a whistle that hung about his neck, in answer to which summons came one I judged to be an Indian by his look, though he was dressed Christianly enough. And now, with a bow to me, Don Federigo speaks to him in tongue I had never heard before, a language very soft and pleasing:

“Your pardon, sir,” said Don Federigo when we were alone, “but Hualipa is an Indian and hath but indifferent Spanish.”

“An Indian?”

“An Aztec Cacique that I saved from an evil death. He is one of the few I can trust. And here another!” said he, as the door opened and a great blackamoor Centered, bearing a roast with wine, etc., at sight whereof my mouth watered and I grew mightily hungered.

While I ate and drank and Don Federigo ministering to my wants, he told me of Adam Penfeather, praising his courtliness and seamanship; he spoke also of my lady and how she had cared for him in his sickness. He told me further how they had been attacked by a great ship and having beaten off this vessel were themselves so much further shattered and unseaworthy that ’twas wonder they kept afloat. None the less Adam had contrived to stand in as near to Nombre de Dios as possible and thus set him safely ashore. Suddenly the arras in the corner was lifted and Hualipa reappeared, who, lifting one hand, said somewhat in his soft speech, whereupon Don Federigo rose suddenly and I also.

“Señor Martino,” said he, taking my hand, “good friend, the familiars of the Holy Office are come for you, so now is farewell, God go with you, and so long as I live, I am your friend to aid you whensoever I may. But now must I see you back in your bonds.”

He now signed to Hualipa who forthwith bound my wrists, though looser than before, whereupon Don Federigo sighed and left me. Then the Indian brought me to a corner of the room and lifting the arras, showed me a small door and led me thence along many dim and winding passages into a lofty hall where I beheld Don Federigo in confabulation with divers of these black-robed ecclesiastics who, beholding me, ceased their talk and making him their several obeisances, carried me away whither they would. Thus very soon I found myself looking again into the pallid, dim-eyed face of the Chief Inquisitor who, lifting one white, bony finger, thus admonished me in his sweet, sad voice:

“Unworthy son, behold now! Holy Church, of its infinite mercy and great love to all such detestable sinners as thou manifestly art, doth study how to preserve thy soul from hell in despite of thyself. And because there is nought so purging as fire, to the fire art thou adjudged except, thy conscience teaching thee horror of thine apostacy, thou wilt abjure thy sin and live. And because nought may so awaken conscience as trouble of mind and pain of body, therefore to trouble and pain doth Holy Church adjudge thy sinful flesh, by water, by fire, by rack, pulley and the wheel.” Here he paused and bowed his head upon his hands and thus remained a while; when at last he spoke, it was with face still hid and slowly, as if unwilling to give the words utterance: “Yet, first–thou art decreed–a space–for contemplation of thy heresy vile and abominable, having fellowship with one who, blasphemous as thyself and of a pride stubborn and hateful, long persisted in his sinfulness, yet at the last, by oft suffering, hath lately abjured his damnable heresy and is become of humble and contrite heart, and thus, being soon to die, shall, by pain of flesh and sorrow of mind, save his soul alive in Paradise everlasting. Go, miserable wretch, thy body is but corruption soon to perish, but the immortal soul of thee is in Holy Church her loving care henceforth, to save in thy despite.”

Then, with face still bowed, he gestured with his hand, whereupon came two hooded familiars and led me forth of his presence. Now as I walked betwixt these shapeless forms that flitted on silent feet and spake no word, my flesh chilled; in despite my reason, for they seemed rather spectres than truly men, yet phantoms of a grim and relentless purposefulness. Voiceless and silent they brought me down stone stairs and along echoing passages into a dim chamber where other cloaked forms moved on soundless feet and spake in hushed and sibilant whispers. Here my bonds were removed and in their place fetters were locked upon my wrists, which done, one came with a lanthorn, who presently led the way along other gloomy passageways where I beheld many narrow, evil-looking doorways. At last my silent guide halted, I heard the rattle of iron, the creak of bolts and a door opened suddenly before me upon a dank and noisome darkness. Into this evil place I was led, and the door clapped to upon me and locked and bolted forthwith. But to my wonder they had left me the lanthorn, and by its flickering beam I stared about me and saw I was in a large dungeon, its corners lost in gloom.

Suddenly as I stood thus, nigh choked with the foul air of the place and full of misgiving, I heard a groaning sigh, and from the shadow of a remote corner a figure reared itself upon its knees to peer under palsied hand with eyes that blinked as if dazzled by this poor light.

“So young–so young–oh, pity! God be merciful to thee–alas, what do you in this place of torment and living death–young sir?”

Now this voice was pitifully cracked and feeble, yet the words were English, wherefore I caught up the lanthorn and coming nearer, set it down where I might better behold the speaker.

“So young–so young! What dost thou among the living dead?”

“I come seeking Sir Richard Brandon!”

Now from the dim figure before me broke a sound that was neither scream nor laughter yet something of both. I saw wild hands upcast to the gloom above, a shrunken, pallid face, the gleam of snow-white hair.

“Oh, God of mercies–oh, God of Justice–at last, oh, God–at last!”

Stooping, I dragged him to the light and found myself suddenly a-trembling so violently that he shook in my gripe.

“What–what mean you?” I cried.

“That I–I am Richard Brandon.”

“Liar!” I cried, shaking him. “Damned liar!”

And yet, looking down upon this old, withered creature who crouched before me on feeble knees, his shrivelled hands clasped and haggard face uplifted, I knew that he spoke truth, and uttering a great and bitter cry, I cast him from me, for here, in place of my proud and masterful enemy, the man I had hated for his fierce and arrogant spirit, God had given to my vengeance at last no more than this miserable thing, this poor, pale shadow. Wherefore now I cast myself down upon my face, beating the floor with my shackled fists and blaspheming my God like the very madman I was.

CHAPTER XXII

HOW AT LAST I FOUND MY ENEMY, RICHARD BRANDON

Whether this paroxysm had wrought me to a swoon I know not, but I wondered to feel a hand upon my head, stroking my hair with touch marvellous gentle, and therewith a voice:

“Comfort thee, comfort thee, poor youth! These be rages and despairs that many do suffer at the first; in a little shall come back thy courage and with it hope–that hope, alas, that never dieth–even here. ‘Lo, I am with thee,’ saith the Lord–so be comforted, young sir. Let other thoughts distract thy mind–let us converse if thou wilt. Tell me, I pray, how didst know my unhappy name?”

“Because,” said I, starting from his touch, “I am son to the man you foully murdered by false accusation. I am Martin Conisby, Lord Wendover of Shere and last of my line!”

Now at this he drew away and away, staring on me great-eyed and I heard the breath gasp between his pallid lips.

“What–do you here, my lord?”

“Seek my just vengeance!”

“The vengeance of a Conisby!” he murmured.

“Six years ago I broke from the hell of slavery you sold me into and ever since have sought you with intent to end the feud once and for ever.”

“The feud?” he muttered. “Aye, we have shed each other’s blood for generations–when your grandfather fought and slew my father on the highway beyond Lamberhurst village I, a weeping boy, kissing the wound his rapier had made, vowed to end the Conisbys one day and came nigh doing it, God forgive me. So doth one sin beget others, and so here to-day, in the gloom of my dungeon, I yield myself to your vengeance, my lord, freely and humbly confessing the harms I did you and the base perfidy of my actions. So, an you will have my miserable life, take it and with my last breath I will beseech God pardon you my blood and bring you safe out of this place of torment and sorrow. God knoweth I have endured much of agony these latter years and yet have cherished my life in despite my sufferings hitherto, aye, cherished it so basely as to turn apostate that I might live yet a little longer–but now, my lord, freely–aye, joyfully will I give it, for your vengeance, praying God of His abounding mercy to pardon my most grievous offences but, being grown weak in courage and body by reason of frequent and grieveous torturings, this mayhap shall plead my excuse. Come then, Martin Conisby, your hand upon my throat, your fetter-chain about my neck–“

“Have done!” said I. “Have done!” And getting up, I crossed to the extremest corner of the dungeon and cast myself down there. But in a little he was beside me again, bearing the lanthorn and with straw from his bed for my pillow, whereupon I cursed and bade him begone, but he never stirred.

“Oh boy,” said he, seeing me clench my fist, “I am inured to stripes and very fain to speech with thee, wherefore suffer me a little and answer me this question, I pray. You have sought me these many years, you have even followed me into this hell of suffering, and God at last hath given me to your vengeance–wherefore not take it?”

“Because he I sought was masterful, strong and arrogant!”

“Yet this my body, though sorely changed, is yet the slime; ’twill bleed if you prick it and I can die as well now as six years ago–?”

But seeing I made no manner of answer, he left me at last and I watched him limp disconsolate to his corner, there to bow himself on feeble knees and with hands crossed on his bosom and white head bowed, fall to a passion of silent prayer yet with many woful sighings and moanings, and so got him to his miserable bed.

As for me, I lay outstretched upon my face, my head pillowed on my arm, with no desire of sleep, or to move, content only to lie thus staring into the yellow flame of the lanthorn as a child might, for it verily seemed that all emotions and desires were clean gone out of me; thus lay I, my mind a-swoon, staring at this glimmering flame until it flickered and vanished, leaving me in outer darkness. But within me was a darkness blacker still, wherein my soul groped vainly.

So the long night wore itself to an end, for presently, lifting heavy head, I was aware of a faint glow waxing ever brighter, till suddenly, athwart the gloom of my prison, shot a beam of radiant glory, like a very messenger of God, telling of a fair, green world, of tree and herb and flower, of the sweet, glad wind of morning and all the infinite mercies of God; so that, beholding this heavenly vision, I came nigh weeping for pure joy and thankfulness.

Now this thrice-blessed sunlight poured in through a small grating high up in the massy wall and showed me the form of my companion, the shining silver of his hair, his arms wide-tossed in slumber. Moved by sudden impulse I arose and (despite the ache and stiffness of my limbs) came softly to look upon him as he lay thus, his cares forgot awhile in blessed sleep; and thus, beneath his rags, I saw divers and many grievous scars of wounds old and new, the marks of hot and searing iron, of biting steel and cruel lash, and in joints, swollen and inflamed, I read the oft-repeated torture of the rack. And yet in these features, gaunt and haggard by suffering, furrowed and lined by pain, was a serene patience and nobility wholly unfamiliar.

Thus it seemed God had hearkened to my oft-repeated prayers, had given up to me mine enemy bound; here at last, beneath my hand, lay the contriver of my father’s ruin and death and of my own evil fortunes. But it seemed the sufferings that had thus whitened his hair, bowed his once stalwart frame and chastened his fierce pride had left behind them something greater and more enduring, before which my madness of hate and passionate desire of vengeance shrank abashed. Now as I stood thus, lost in frowning contemplation of my enemy, he groaned of a sudden and starting to his elbow, stared up at me haggard-eyed.

“Ah, my lord!” said he, meeting my threatening look. “Is the hour of vengeance at hand–seek ye my life indeed? Why, then, I am ready!”

But, nothing speaking, I got me back to my gloomy corner and crouched there, my knees up-drawn, my head bowed upon my arms; and now, my two hands gripping upon the empty air, I prayed again these words so often wrung from me by past agonies: “Oh, God of Justice, give me now vengeance–vengeance upon mine enemy. His life, Oh, God, his life!” But even as I spake these words within myself I knew the vengeance I had dreamed of and cherished so dearly was but a dream indeed, a fire that had burned utterly away, leaving nought but the dust and ashes of all that might have been. And realising somewhat of the bitter mockery of my situation, bethinking me of all I had so wantonly cast away for this dream, and remembering the vain labour and all the wasted years, I fell to raging despair, insomuch that I groaned aloud and casting myself down, smote upon the stone floor of my prison with shackled fists. And thus I presently felt a touch and glanced up to behold my enemy bending above me.

“My lord–” said he.

“Devil!” I cried, smiting the frail hand from me. “I am no more than the poor outcast wretch you ha’ made of me!” Thus, with curses and revilings, I bade him plague me no more and presently, wearied mind and body by my long vigil, I fell a-nodding, until, wakened by the opening of the door, I looked up to behold one of the black-robed familiars, who, having set down meat and drink, vanished again, silent and speechless.

Roused by the delectable savours of this meat, which was hot and well-seasoned, I felt myself ravenous and ate with keen appetite, and taking up the drink, found it to be wine, very rich and comforting. So I ate and drank my fill, never heeding my companion, and thereafter, stretching myself as comfortably as I might, I sank into a deep slumber. But my sleep was troubled by all manner of dreams wherein was a nameless fear that haunted me, a thing dim-seen and silent, save for the stealthy rustling of a trailing robe. And even as I strove to flee it grew upon me until I knew this was Death in the shape of Fra Alexo. And now, as I strove vainly to escape those white, cruel fingers, Joanna was betwixt us; I heard her shrill, savage cry, saw the glitter of her steel and, reeling back, Fra Alexo stood clutching his throat in his two hands, staring horribly ere he fell. But looking upon him as he lay I saw this was not Fra Alexo, for gazing on the pale, dead face, I recognised the beloved features of my lady Joan. But, sudden and swift, Joanna stooped to clasp that stilly form, to lay her ruddy mouth to these pallid lips; and lo, she that was dead stirred, and rose up quick and vivid with life and reached out yearning arms to me, seeing nothing of Joanna where she lay, a pale, dead thing.

I started up, crying aloud, and blinked to the glare of a lanthorn; as I crouched thus, shielding my eyes from this dazzling beam, from the darkness beyond came a voice, very soft and tenderly sweet, the which set me shivering none the less.

“Most miserable man, forswear now the error of thy beliefs, or prepare thy unworthy flesh to chastisement. In this dead hour of night when all do sleep, save the God thou blasphemest and Holy Church, thou shall be brought to the question–“

“Hold, damned Churchman!” cried a voice, and turning I beheld my enemy, Sir Richard Brandon, his gaunt and fettered arms upraised, his eyes fierce and steadfast. “Heed not this bloody-minded man! And you, Fra Alexo and these cowled fiends that do your evil work, I take you to witness, one and all, that I, Richard Brandon, Knight banneret of Kent, do now, henceforth and for ever, renounce and abjure the oath you wrung from my coward flesh by your devilish tortures. Come, do to my body what ye will, but my soul–aye, my soul belongs to God–not to the Church of Rome! May God reckon up against you the innocent blood you have shed and in every groan and tear and cry you have wrung from tortured flesh may you find a curse in this world and hereafter!”

The loud, fierce voice ceased; instead I heard a long and gentle sigh, a murmured command, and Sir Richard was seized by dim forms and borne away, his irons clashing. Then I sprang, whirling up my fetter-chains to smite, was tripped heavily, felt my limbs close-pinioned and was dragged forth of the dungeon. And now, thus helpless at the mercy of these hideous, hooded forms that knew no mercy, my soul shrank for stark horror of what was to be, and my body shook and trembled in abject terror.

In this miserable state I was dragged along, until once again I heard the murmur of that sweet, soft voice, whereupon my captors halted, a door was unlocked, and I was cast into a place of outer darkness there to lie bruised and half-stunned yet agonised with fear, insomuch that for very shame I summoned up all my resolution, and mastering my fear, I clenched chattering teeth and sweating palms, determined to meet what was to be with what courage and fortitude I might. Slowly the shivering horror passed and in its place was a strange calm as I waited for them to bear me to the torture.

Suddenly my heart leapt to a shrill scream and thereafter I heard an awful voice, loud and hoarse and tremulous, and between each gasping cry, dreadful periods of silence:

“Oh, God … Oh, God of pity, aid me … make me to endure … Lord God, strengthen my coward soul … help me to be worthy … faithful at last … faithful to the end….”

As for me, well knowing the wherefore of these outcries, the meaning of these ghastly silences, a frenzy of horror seized me so that I shouted and raved, rolling to and fro in my bonds. Yet even so I could hear them at their devils work, until the hoarse screams sank to a piteous wailing, a dreadful inarticulate babble, until, wrought to a frenzy, I struggled to my feet (despite my bonds) and (like the madman I was) leapt towards whence these awful sounds came, and falling, knew no more.

From this blessed oblivion I was roused by a kindly warmth and opening my eyes, saw that I lay face down in a beam of sunshine that poured in through the small grille high in the wall like a blessing; being very weary and full of pain, and feeling this kindly ray mighty comforting, I lay where I was and no desire to move, minded to sleep again. But little by little I became conscious of a dull, low murmur of sound very distressful to hear and that set me vaguely a-wondering. Therefore, after some while, I troubled to lift my head and wondered no more.

A twisted heap of blood-stained rags, the pallid oval of a face, the dull gleam of a chain, this much I saw at a glance, but when I came beside Sir Richard’s prostrate form and beheld the evils they had wrought on him, a cry of horror and passionate anger broke from me, whereupon he checked his groaning and opening swimming eyes, smiled wanly up at me.

“Glory–and thanks to God–I–endured!” he whispered. Now at this I sank on my knees beside him, and when I would have spoken, could not for a while; at last:

“Is there aught I may do?” I questioned.

“Water!” he murmured feebly. So I reached the water and setting my arm ‘neath his neck (and despite my fetters) lifted him as gently as I might and held the jar to his cracked lips. When he had drank what he would I made a rough pillow for his head and rent strips from my shirt for bandages, and finding my pitcher full-charged with wine, mixed some with water and betook me to bathing his divers hurts (though greatly hampered by the chain of my fetters) and found him very patient to endure my awkward handling, in the midst of which, meeting my eye, he smiled faintly:

“Martin Conisby,” he whispered. “Am I not–your–enemy?”

“Howbeit you endured!” quoth I.

“Thanks be to God!” said he humbly. “And is it for this. You will cherish thus–and comfort one–hath wronged you and yours–so bitterly?”

But at this I grew surly and having made an end of my rough surgery, I went and cast myself upon my bed of straw and, lying there, watching the sunbeam creep upon the wall, I fell to pondering this problem, viz: How came I thus striving to soothe the woes of this man I had hunted all these years to his destruction; why must I pity his hurts and compassionate his weakness–why?

And as I sat, my fists clenched, scowling at the sun-ray, it verily seemed as he had read these my thoughts.

“Martin Conisby,” said he, his voice grown stronger. “Oh, Martin, think it not shame to pity thine enemy; to cherish them that despitefully use you; this is Godlike. I was a proud man and merciless but I have learned much by sufferings, and for the wrongs I did you–bitterly have I repented. So would I humbly sue forgiveness of you since I am to die so soon–“

“To die?”

“Aye, Martin, at the next auto-da-fé–by the fire–“

“The fire!” said I, clenching my fists.

“They have left me my life that I may burn–“

“When?” I demanded ‘twixt shut teeth. “When?”

“To-day–to-morrow–the day after–what matter? But when the flames have done their work, I would fain go to God bearing with me your forgiveness. But if this be too much to hope–why, then, Martin, I will beseech God to pluck you forth of this place of horror and to give you back to England, to happiness, to honour and all that I reft from you–“

“Nay, this were thing impossible!” I cried.

“There is nought impossible to God, Martin!” Here fell silence awhile and then, “Oh, England–England!” cried he. “D’ye mind how the road winds ‘twixt the hedgerows a-down hill into Lamberhurst, Martin; d’ye mind the wonder of it all–the green meadows, the dim woods full of bird song and fragrance–you shall see it all again one day, but as for me–ah, to breathe just once again the sweet smell of English earth! But God’s will be done!”

For a while I sat picturing to my fancy the visions his words had conjured up; lifting my head at last, I started up to see him so pale and still and bending above him, saw him sleeping, placid as any child, yet with the marks of tears upon his shrunken cheek.

CHAPTER XXIII

HOW I FOUND MY SOUL

The torment by fire, torture by water, rack and thumbscrews, pulley and wheel, the weights, the press, the glove and the boot,–these the devices men hath schemed out for the plaguing of his neighbour, the hellish engines he hath troubled to invent and build for the crushing, twisting, tearing and maiming of his fellow-man, yet of all these devilish machines nought is there so constant, so pitiless and hard of endurance as the agony of suspense; there is a spectre mopping and mowing at our shoulder by day and haunting the misery of our nights; here is a disease slowly but surely sapping hope and courage and life itself.

Howbeit it was thus I found it in the time that followed, for little by little I became the prey of a terror that grew, until the opening of the door would bring me to my feet in sweating panic, or the mere rattle of my fellow-prisoner’s chains fill me with shivering despair. And because of these sick fears I felt great scorn of myself, and knowing I was in this place of horror by my own will and contrivance, to despair and scorn was added a bitter self-hatred. And now, remembering how Adam had vowed to rescue Sir Richard, I prayed for his coming, at one moment full of hope, the next in an agony of despair lest he should come too late. Thus I fell to my black mood, speaking no word or answering my companion but by curses; and thus would I sit for hours, sullen and morose, gnawing my knuckles and staring on vacancy. Or again, beholding my enemy so serene, so placid and unmoved (and his case no better than my own) I would fall to sudden bitter revilings of him, until, meeting the gentle patience of his look, I would fall silent for very shame.

At last, upon a night, tossing upon my wretched bed in dire torment of soul, I chanced to espy my enemy and him sleeping; whereat I fell to fierce anger.

“Ha, Brandon!” I cried. “Will ye sleep, man, will ye sleep and I in torment. Wake–wake and tell me, must we die soon? Wake, I say!” At this he raised himself to blink at me in the beam of the lanthorn. “Must we die soon, think ye?” I demanded fiercely.

“In God’s time, Martin!” said he.

“Think ye they will–torture me first?” Now here, seeing his troubled look and how he groped for an answer, I cursed and bade him tell me, aye or no.

“Alas, I do fear it!” said he.

“We are beyond hope?” I demanded.

“Nay, there is always God,” said he. “But we are beyond all human aid. This do I know by reason of this airy dungeon and the luxury of food and light. Fra Alexo doeth nought unreasonably; thus we have our lanthorn that we, haply waking from dreams of home and happiness, may behold our prison walls and know an added grief. Instead of the water-dungeon or the black terror of cell deep-hidden from the blessed day, he hath set us in this goodly place that we, beholding the sun, may yearn amain for the blessed freedom of God’s green world–“

“Ha!” quoth I. “And for those he dooms to the torment he sendeth rich food and generous wine–aye, aye, I see it now–a man strong and full-blooded may endure more agony and longer. So they will torture me–as they did you–but when, ah, God–when?” And here I sank face down upon my bed and lay there shuddering. And presently I was aware of my companion kneeling beside me, his hand upon my shoulder, his gentle voice in my ear:

“Comfort ye, Martin, comfort ye, God shall give ye strength–“

“Nay, I am a coward!” I cried bitterly, “A shameful craven!”

“Yet you do not fear! You have endured! The fire hath no terrors for you!”

“Because I am old in suffering, and am done with fear, because, beyond smoke and flame, I shall find God at last.”

“Think ye there is a God?”

“I know it, Martin!”

“Yet am I coward!” I groaned. “Though ’tis not death I fear, nor the torture so much, ’tis rather to be thus counting the hours–“

“I know,” said he, sighing. “I know. ‘Tis the waiting for what is to be, ah, the weary, weary waiting–’tis this doth shake the strongest; the hour of suffering may be now, or to-morrow, or a month hence.”

“God send it be to-night!” said I fervently. “And to-night, and while I am yet the man I am, know this; I, that lived but for vengeance, dying, do renounce it once and for ever. I, that came hither seeking an enemy, find, in place of hated foe, a man ennobled by his sufferings and greater than myself. So, as long as life remains to us, let there be peace and good will betwixt us, Sir Richard. And as you once sued forgiveness of me, now do I sue your friendship–“

“Martin!” said he in choking voice, and then again, “Oh, Martin Conisby, thus hath God answered my prayer and thus doth the feud betwixt Conisby and Brandon end–“

“Yes!” said I. “Yes–so do I know at last that I have followed a vain thing and lost all the sweetness life had to offer.”

Now here, seeing me lie thus deject and forlorn, he stooped and set his ragged arm about me.

“Grieve not, Martin,” said he in strange, glad voice, “grieve not, for in losing so much you have surely found a greater thing. Here, in this dread place, you have found your soul.”

And presently, sheltered in the frail arm of the man had been my bitter enemy, I took comfort and fell to sweet and dreamless slumber.

Another day had dragged its weary length: Sir Richard lay asleep, I think, and I, gloomy and sullen, lay watching the light fade beyond the grating in the wall when; catching my breath, I started and peered up, misdoubting my eyes, for suddenly, ‘twixt the bars of this grating, furtive and silent crept a hand that opening, let fall something white and shapeless that struck the stone floor with a sharp, metallic sound, and vanished stealthily as it had come. For a while I stared up at this rusty grating, half-fearing I was going mad at last, yet when I thought to look below, there on the floor lay the shapeless something where it had fallen. With every nerve a-thrill I rose and creeping thither, took it up and saw it was Adam’s chart, the which had been taken from me, with all else I possessed; this wrapped about a key and a small, sharp knife; on the back of which, traced in a scrawling hand, I read these words, viz:

“A key to your fetters. A knife to your release. Once free of your dungeon take every passage Bearing to the left; so shall you reach the postern. There one shall wait, wearing a white scarf. Follow him and God speed you.
You will be visited at sunset.”

To be lifted thus from blackest despair to hope’s very pinnacle wrought on me so that I was like one entranced, staring down at knife and paper and key where they had fallen from my nerveless hold; then, catching up the knife, I stood ecstatic to thumb over point and edge and felt myself a man once more, calm and resolute, to defy every inquisitor in Spanish America, and this merely by reason of the touch of this good steel, since here was a means whereby (as a last resource) I might set myself safe beyond their devilish torments once and for all. And now my soul went out in passionate gratitude to Don Federigo since this (as I judged) must be of his contrivance.

But the shadows deepening warned me that the sun had set wherefore I slipped off my shoes as softly as possible not to disturb Sir Richard’s slumbers, and made me ready to kill or be killed.

And presently I heard the creak of bolts and, creeping in my stockinged feet, posted myself behind the door as it opened to admit the silent, shrouded form of a familiar bearing a lanthorn. Now, seeing he came alone, I set the knife in my girdle and, crouched in the shadow of the door, watched my time; for a moment he stood, seeming to watch Sir Richard who, roused by the light, stirred and, waking, blinked fearfully at this silent shape.

“Ah, what now?” he questioned. “Is it me ye seek?” For answer the familiar set down the lanthorn and beckoned with his finger. Then, as Sir Richard struggled painfully to his feet, I sprang and grappled this hateful, muffled form ere he could cry out, had him fast by the throat, and dragging him backwards across my knee, I choked him thus, his hoarse whistling gasps muffled in his enveloping hood. And then Sir Richard was beside me.

“Will ye slay him, Martin?” cried he.

“Aye!” I nodded and tightened my grip.

“Nay, rather spare him because he is an enemy; thus shall your soul go lighter henceforth, Martin.”

So in the end I loosed my hold, whereupon the familiar sank to the floor and lay, twitching feebly. Hereupon I rent off hood and robe and found him a poor, mean creature that wept and moaned, wherefore I incontinent gagged him with stuff from his own habit and thereafter locked him securely into my fetters. And now, trembling with haste, I donned his habit and, catching up the lanthorn, turned on Sir Richard:

“Come!” said I.

“Nay!” said he, wringing his fettered hands. “Nay–alas, I should but hamper you–“

“Come!” said I, my every nerve a-tingle to be gone. “Come–I will aid you–hurry, man–hurry!”

“Nay, ’twere vain, Martin, I can scarce walk–’twere selfish in me to let you run such needless risks. Go, Martin, go–God bless you and bring you safe out of this evil place.”

Without more ado I tucked my shoes into my bosom, caught up the lanthorn and hasted away.

But as I went I must needs remember the pitiful eagerness of Sir Richard’s look and the despairing gesture of those helpless, fettered hands.

Hereupon I cursed fiercely to myself and, turning about, came running back and, finding him upon his knees, hove him to his feet and, or ever he guessed my purpose, swung him across my shoulder and so away again, finding him no great burden (God knows) for all his fetters that clanked now and then despite his efforts. Presently espying a passage to my left, thither hurried I and so in a little to another; indeed it seemed the place was a very maze and with many evil-looking doors that shut in God only knew what of misery and horror. So I hasted on, while my breath laboured and the sweat ran from me; and with every clank of Sir Richard’s fetters my heart leapt with dread lest any hear, though indeed these gloomy passageways seemed quite deserted. And ever as we went, nought was to see save these evil doors and gloomy walls, yet I struggled on until my strength began to fail and I reeled for very weariness, until at last I stopped and set Sir Richard on his feet since I could carry him no further, and leaned panting against the wall, my strength all gone and my heart full of despair, since it seemed I had missed my way.

Suddenly, as I leaned thus, I heard the tinkle of a lute and a voice singing, and though these sounds were dull and muffled, I judged them at no great distance; therefore I began to creep forward, the knife ready in one hand, the lanthorn in the other, and thus presently turning a sharp angle, I beheld a flight of steps surmounted by a door. Creeping up to this door, I hearkened and found the singing much nearer; trying the door, I found it yield readily and opening it an inch or so beheld a small chamber lighted by a hanging lamp and upon a table a pair of silver-mounted pistols; coming to the table I took them up and found them primed and loaded. I now beckoned Sir Richard who crept up the stairs with infinite caution lest his fetter-chains should rattle.

The chamber wherein we stood seemed the apartment of some officer, for across a small bed lay a cloak and plumed hat together with a silver-hilted rapier, which last I motioned Sir Richard to take. Beyond the bed was another door, and coming thither I heard a sound of voices and laughter, so that I judged here was a guard-room. As I stood listening, I saw Sir Richard standing calm and serene, the gleaming sword grasped in practised hand and such a look of resolution on his lined face as heartened me mightily. And now again came the tinkle of the lute and, giving a sign to Sir Richard, I softly raised the latch and, plucking open the door, stepped into the room behind, the pistols levelled in my hands.

Before me were five men–four at cards and a fifth fingering a lute, who turned to gape, one and all, at my sudden appearance.

“Hold!” said I in Spanish, through the muffing folds of my hood. “Let a man move and I shoot!” At this they sat still enough, save the man with the lute, a small, fat fellow who grovelled on his knees; to him I beckoned. “Bind me these fellows!” I commanded.

“No ropes here!” he stammered.

“With their belts, fool; their arms behind them–so!” Which done, I commanded him to free Sir Richard of his gyves; whereupon the little fellow obeyed me very expeditiously with one of the many keys that hung against the wall. Then I gave my pistols to Sir Richard and seizing on the little, fat man, bound him also. Hereupon I gagged them all five as well as I might and having further secured their legs with their scarves and neckerchiefs, I dragged them one by one into the inner chamber (the doors of which I locked) and left them there mightily secure. Then, catching up a good, stout sword and a cloak to cover Sir Richard’s rags, I opened another door and, having traversed a sort of anteroom, presently stepped out into the free air.

It was a dark night; indeed I never saw Nombre de Dios any other than in the dark, yet the stars made a glory of the heavens and I walked awhile, my eyes upraised in a very ecstasy, clean forgetting my companion until he spoke.

“Whither now, Martin?”

“I am directed to a postern, and one bearing a white scarf.”

“The postern?” quoth Sir Richard. “I know it well, as doth many another unhappy soul; ’tis the gate whereby suspects are conveyed secretly to the question!”

We kept to the smaller streets and lanes, the which, being ill-lighted, we passed without observation; thus at last, following the loom of a high wall, very grim and forbidding, we came in sight of a small gateway beneath a gloomy arch, where stood two shadowy figures as if on the lookout, whereupon I stopped to reconnoitre them, loosening my sword in the scabbard. But now one of these figures approached and, halting to peer at us, spoke in strange, muffled tones.

“Seek ye the white scarf?” questioned the voice in Spanish.

“We do!” said I. At this the man opened the long cloak he wore and flourished to view a white scarf.

“Aye, but there were two of you,” said I. “What is come of your fellow?”

“He but goeth before, Señor.” And true enough, when I looked, the other dim form had vanished, the which I liked so little that, drawing my sword, I clapped it to the fellow’s breast.

“Look now,” quoth I, “play us false and you die!”

“The Señor may rest assured!” says he, never flinching.

“Why, then, lead on!” I commanded.

Now as we followed this unknown, I had an uncanny feeling that we were being dogged by something or some one that flitted in the darkness, now behind us, now before us, now upon our flank, wherefore I walked soft-treading and with my ears on the stretch. And presently our guide brought us amid the denser gloom of trees whose leaves rustled faintly above us and grass whispered under foot; and thus (straining my ears, as I say) I thought to catch the sound of stealthy movement that was neither leaf nor grass, insomuch that, shifting the sword to my left hand, I drew forth and cocked one of the pistols. At last we came out from among the trees and before us was the gleam of water and I saw we were upon the bank of a stream. Here our guide paused as if unsure; but suddenly was the gleam of a lanthorn and I heard Don Federigo’s welcome voice:

“Is that Hualipa?”

Our guide moved forward and, pausing in the glare of the lanthorn, let fall his cloak and I, beholding that pallid, impressive face, the dull eyes, small mouth, and high thin nose, knew him for Fra Alexo, Chief Inquisitor of Nombre de Dios. Then, lifting one hand to point slim finger at Don Federigo, he spoke in his soft, sweet voice:

“Don Federigo, long hath Holy Church suspected thee–and Holy Church hath many eyes–and hands. So is thy messenger dead and so I favoured the escape of these declared heretics that through them thou mightest be taken in thy shameful treachery. Even now come armed servants of the Church to take again these doomed heretics and with them–thee also. Now kill me an you will, but thine apostasy is uncovered; the Holy Inquisition hath thee safe at last. Thy good name, thy pride of birth and place shall not shelter thee from the avenging fire–oh, most treacherous one–“

Suddenly he choked, clapped his two hands to his throat, staring horribly; and betwixt his fingers I saw a small, tufted thing deep-buried in his throat. Then all at once there burst from his writhen lips an awful, gasping scream, dreadful to hear, and then he was down, writhing and gasping awhile, with Don Federigo and Sir Richard bending above him.

But I, well knowing what this was and remembering the unseen thing that had tracked us, turned to the shadow of a bush hard by and thus beheld a shaggy head that peered amid the leaves, a hairy face with wild, fierce eyes and teeth that gleamed.

So the man John stared down at his handiwork, flourished his deadly blowpipe and was gone.

“He is dead!” said Don Federigo. “‘Tis an Indian poison I have met with ere this–very sudden and deadly. Fra Alexo stands at the tribunal of his God!” and baring his head, Don Federigo glanced down at the dark, contorted shape and thence to the gloomy trees beyond, and beckoning, brought me to a boat moored under the bank hard by.

“Señor Martino,” said he, “’tis time you were gone, for if Don Alexo hath turned out the guard–“

“Nay, sir,” quoth I, “they must be some while a-coming,” and I told him briefly how we had secured the watch.

“And Fra Alexo is dead!” said he.

Here I would fain have told him something of my gratitude for the dire risks and perils he had run on my behalf, but he caught my hands and silenced me.

“My friend Martino,” said he in his careful English, “you adventured your life for me many times; if therefore I save yours, it is but just. And your vengeance–is it achieved?”

“Indeed, sir,” quoth Sir Richard, “achieved to the very uttermost, for he hath carried that enemy out from the shadow of death, hath perilled his own chances of life that I might know the joys of freedom–I that was his bitter enemy.”

“So may all enmity pass one day, I pray God,” sighed Don Federigo. “And now, as for thee, Martino my friend, vengeance such as thine is thing so rare as maketh me to honour thy friendship and loath to lose thee, since we shall meet no more in this life. Thus I do grieve a little, for I am an old man, something solitary and weary, and my son, alas, is dead. This sword was my father’s and should have been his; take you it, I pray, and wear it in memory of me.” And speaking, he loosed off his sword and thrust it upon me.

“Noble sir,” said I, “dear and good friend, it doth not need this to mind me of all your high courage and steadfast friendship–and I have nought to offer in return–“

“I shall ever remember your strange method of vengeance!” said he. And when we had embraced each other, I got me into the boat and aided Sir Richard in beside me.

“Look now,” warned Don Federigo as I loosed the mooring rope, “pull across the river and be wary, for in a little the whole town will be roused upon you. Get clear of the river as speedily as you may. And so, farewell, my friend, and God go with you!”

For answer I waved my hand, then, betaking me to the oars, I pulled out–into the stream farther and farther, until the stately form of Don Federigo was merged and lost in the gloom.

Sure enough, scarcely had we come into the shadows of the opposite bank than the silence gave place to a distant clamour, lost all at once in a ringing of bells, a rolling of drums and a prodigious blowing of horns and trumpets; the which set me a-sweating in despite the cool night wind, as, chin on shoulder, I paddled slowly along, unsure of my going and very fearful lest I run aground. In the midst of which anxieties I heard Sir Richard’s voice, calm and gentle and very comforting:

“With a will, Martin–pull! I know the river hereabouts; pull, Martin, and trust to me!” Hereupon I bent to the oars and with no fear of being heard above the din ashore, since every moment bells and drums and trumpets waxed louder. Thus presently we came opposite the town, a place of shadows where lights hovered; and seeing with what nicety Sir Richard steered, keeping ever within the denser shadow of the tree-clad bank, I rowed amain until we were past the raving town, and its twinkling lights were blotted out by a sudden bend of the river.

Suddenly I saw Sir Richard stand up, peering, heard his voice quick and commanding:

“Ship your oars!” Then came a chorus of hoarse shouts, a shock, and we were rocking, gunwale and gunwale, with a boat where dim figures moved, crying shrill curses. I remember letting drive at one fellow with an oar and thereafter laying about me until the stout timber shivered in my grasp. I remember the dull gleam of Sir Richard’s darting blade and then the two boats had drifted apart. Tossing aside my shattered oar, I found me another and rowed until, gasping, I must needs pause awhile and so heard Sir Richard speaking:

“Easy, Martin, easy! There lieth the blessed ocean at last; but–see!”

Resting on my oars and glancing whither he pointed, I saw a light suspended high in air and knew this for the riding-lanthorn of a ship whose shadowy bulk grew upon me as I gazed, hull and towering masts outlined against the glimmer of stars and the vague light of a young moon. Hereupon I bowed my head, despairing, for this ship lay anchored in midstream, so that no boat might hope to pass unchallenged; thus I began to debate within me whether or no to row ashore and abandon our boat, when Sir Richard questioned me:

“Can you sing ever a Spanish boat song, Martin?”

“No,” said I, miserably. “No–“

“Why, then, I must, though mine is a very indifferent voice and rusty from lack o’ use; meantime do you get up the mast; the wind serves.” Which said, Sir Richard forthwith began to sing a Spanish song very harsh and loud, whiles I sweated amain in panic fear; none the less I contrived to step mast and hoist sail and, crouched on the midship thwart, watched the great galleon as we bore down upon her.

And presently came a voice hailing us in Spanish with demand as to who and what we were, whereat Sir Richard broke off his song to shout that we were fishermen, the which simple answer seemed to reassure our questioner, for we heard no more and soon the great ship was merely a vague shadow that, fading on our vision, merged into the night and was gone.

And thus in a while, having crossed the troubled waters of the bar, I felt the salt wind sweet and fresh on my brow like a caress, felt the free lift and roll of the seas; and now, beholding this illimitable expanse of sky and ocean, needs must I remember the strait prison and dire horrors whence God had so lately delivered me, and my soul swelled within me too full of gratitude for any words.

“Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever!”

Turning, I espied Sir Richard upon his knees, one hand grasping the tiller sailorly, the other upraised to the glimmering firmament; hereupon I knelt also, joining him in this prayer of thanksgiving. And thus we began our journey.

CHAPTER XXIV

OF OUR ADVENTURE AT SEA

Dawn found us standing easterly before a gentle wind with the land bearing away upon our right, a fair and constantly changing prospect of sandy bays, bold headlands and green uplands backed by lofty mountains blue with distance.

And what with all the varied beauties of earth, the blue heaven, the sparkle of sea, the soft, sweet wind, it verily seemed the late gloomy terrors of my dungeon were no more than a nightmare until, hearing a moan, I turned to see my companion stirring in uneasy slumber, his haggard features contorted as by some spasm, whereupon I touched him to wakefulness, bidding him see if we had aught aboard to eat or drink; but he crouched motionless as one rapt in an ecstasy, staring eager-eyed from cloudless heaven to sapphire sea and round about upon the glory of the dawn and fell suddenly a-laughing as from pure joy and as suddenly hid his face within his shrivelled hands.

“This–O, glory of God! This, instead of black despair!” said he in weeping voice. “This sweet, healing wind instead of searing flame–and you, Martin, ’tis you have given all this! I dreamed me back in the hell you brought me from! Sun and wind and sea–oh, God love thee–these be your gifts to me that was your enemy–“

“Nay, our enmity is dead and done with–“

“Martin Conisby,” said he, looking on me through his tears, “through you, by God’s grace, I know again the joy of living, and, God aiding me, you shall yet know the like happiness an I may compass it!”

Now seeing him thus deeply moved I grew abashed and, beckoning him to take the tiller, began to overhaul the contents of the boat’s lockers and thus found that Don Federigo had furnished us to admiration with all things to our comfort and defence. Forthwith I set out breakfast, choosing such things as I judged the most perishable, and we ate and drank mighty cheerful.

But as Sir Richard sat thus in his rags, staring upon all things with ineffable content, the bright sun showed me the hideous marks of his many sufferings plain and manifest in his bent and twisted frame, the scars that disfigured him and the clumsy movements of his limbs misshapen by the torment, and moreover I noticed how, ever and anon, he would be seized of violent tremblings and shudderings like one in an ague, insomuch that I could scarce abide to look on him for very pity and marvelled within myself that any man could endure so much and yet live.

“Oh friend!” said he suddenly, “’tis a wondrous world you have given back to me; I almost grow a man again–“

Even as he uttered these brave words the shuddering took him once more, but when I would have aided him he smiled and spake ‘twixt chattering teeth:

“Never heed me, Martin–this cometh of the water-dungeons–’twill soon pass–“

“God knoweth you have suffered over-much–“

“Yet He hath brought me forth a better man therefor, though my body is–something the worse, ’tis true. Indeed, I am a sorry companion for a voyage, I doubt–“

“Howbeit,” said I, “last night, but for your ready wit, we had been taken–“

“Say you so, Martin? Here is kind thought and comforting, for I began to dread lest I prove an encumbrance to you.

“Nay, sir, never think it!” said I. “For ’tis my earnest hope to bring you to the loving care of one who hath sought you long and patiently–“

“Is it Joan? Oh, mean you my daughter Joan? Is she in these latitudes?”

“Even so, sir. For you she hath braved a thousand horrors and evils.”

And here, in answer to his eager questioning, I told him much of what I have writ here concerning the Lady Joan, her resolute spirit and numberless virtues, a theme whereof I never wearied. Thus, heedless of time, of thirst or hunger, I told of the many dire perils she had encountered in her quest, both aboard ship and on the island, to all of which Sir Richard hearkened, his haggard gaze now on my face, now fixed yearningly on the empty distances before us as he would fain conjure up the form of her whose noble qualities I was describing. When at last I had made an end, he sat silent a great while.

“I was a proud, harsh man of old,” said he at last, “and a father most ungentle–and ’tis thus she doth repay me! You and she were children together–playfellows, Martin.”

“Aye, sir, ’twas long ago.”

“And in my prideful arrogance I parted you, because you were the son of my enemy, but God hath brought you together again and His will be done. But, Martin, if she be yet in these latitudes, where may we hope to find her?”

“At Darien, in the Gulf!”

“Darien?” said he. “Why there, Martin? ‘Tis a wild country and full of hostile Indians. I landed there once–“

So I told him how Adam had appointed a place of meeting there, showing him also the chart Adam had drawn for my guidance, the which we fell to studying together, whereby we judged we had roughly but some eighty leagues to sail and a notable good sea-boat under us, and that by keeping in sight of the Main we could not fail of fetching up with the rendezvous, always suppose we lost not our bearings by being blown out to sea.

“Had I but quadrant and compass, Martin–“

“How, sir,” said I, “can you navigate?”

“I could once,” said he, with his faint smile. Hereupon I hasted to reach these instruments from one of the lockers (since it seemed Don Federigo had forgot nothing needful to our welfare), perceiving which, Sir Richard straightened his bowed shoulders somewhat and his sallow cheek flushed. “Here at last I may serve you somewhat, Martin,” said he and, turning his back to the sun, he set the instrument to his eye and began moving the three vanes to and fro until he had the proper focus and might obtain the sun’s altitude; whereby he had presently found our present position, the which he duly pricked upon the chart. He now showed me how, by standing out on direct course instead of following the tortuous windings of the coast, we could shorten our passage by very many miles. Hereupon we shaped our course accordingly and, the wind freshening somewhat, by afternoon the high coast had faded to a faint blur of distant mountain peaks, and by sunset we had lost it altogether.

And so night came down on us, with a kindly wind, cool and refreshing after the heats of the day, a night full of a palpitant, starry splendour and lit by a young, horned moon that showed us this wide-rolling infinity of waters and these vast spaces filled, as it seemed, with the awful majesty of God, so that when we spake (which was seldom) it was in hushed voices. It being my turn to sleep, I lay down, yet could not close my eyes for a while for the wonder of the stars above, and with my gaze thus uplift, I must needs think of my lady and wonder where she might be, with passionate prayers for her safety; and beholding these heavenly splendours, I thought perchance she might be viewing them also and in this thought found me great solace and comfort. And now what must my companion do but speak of her that was thus in my thought.

“Martin,” he questioned suddenly, “do you love her?”

“Aye, I do!” said I, “mightily!”

“And she you?”

“God grant it!”

“Here,” said he after some while, “here were a noble ending to the feud, Martin?”

“Sir, ’tis ended already, once and for all.”

“Aye, but,” said he with a catch in his voice, “all my days I–have yearned–for a son. More especially now–when I am old and so feeble.”

“Then, sir, you shall lack no longer, if I can thus make up in some small measure for all you have suffered–“

At this he fell silent again but in the dark his trembling hand stole down to touch me lightly as in blessing; and so I fell asleep.

Prom this slumber I was suddenly aroused by his calling on my name and, opening drowsy eyes, beheld (as it were) a luminous veil that blotted out moon and stars and ocean, and, looking about, saw we lay becalmed in a white mist.

“Martin,” said Sir Richard, his face a pale oval in the dimness, “d’ye hear aught?”

“No more than the lapping of the waves,” I answered, for indeed the sea was very calm and still.

“Nay, listen awhile, Martin, for either I’m mad or there’s some one or something crying and wailing to larboard of us, an evil sound like one in torment. Three times the cry has reached me, yet here we lie far out to sea. So list ye, son, and tell me if my ears do play me false, for verily I–“

His speech died away as from somewhere amid the chill and ghostly vapour there stole a long-drawn, wailing cry, so woful, so desolate, and so unearthly here in this vasty solitude that I caught my breath and stared upon this eddying mist with gaze of fearful expectancy.

“You heard it, Martin; you heard it?”

“Aye!” I nodded.

“‘Tis like one cries upon the rack, Martin!”

“‘Tis belike from some ship hid in the fog yonder,” said I, handing him a musket from the arms-locker.

“There was no ship to see before this fog came down on us,” quoth Sir Richard uneasily; howbeit he took the weapon, handling it so purposefully as was great comfort to see, whereupon I took oars and began to row towards whence I judged this awful cry had come. And presently it rose again, dreadful to hear, a sound to freeze the blood. I heard Sir Richard cock his piece and glanced instinctively to make sure Don Federigo’s sword lay within my reach. Three times the cry rose, ere, with weapon poised for action, Sir Richard motioned for me to stop rowing, and glancing over my shoulder, I saw that which loomed upon us through the mist, a dim shape that gradually resolved itself into a large ship’s boat or pinnace. Sword in one hand and pistol in the other, I stood up and hailed lustily, yet got no sound in reply save a strange, dull whimpering.

Having shouted repeatedly to no better purpose, I took oars again and paddled cautiously nearer until at last, by standing on the thwart, I might look into this strange boat and (the fog being luminous) perceived three dark shapes dreadfully huddled and still; but as I gazed, one of these stirred slightly, and I heard a strange, dull, thumping sound and then I saw this for a great hound. Hereupon I cast our boathook over their gunwale and while Sir Richard held the boats thus grappled, scrambled aboard them, pistol in hand, and so came upon two dead men and beside them this great dog.

And now I saw these men had died in fight and not so long since, for the blood that fouled them and the boat was still wet, and even as I bent over them the hound licked the face of him that lay uppermost and whined. And men and dog alike seemed direly thin and emaciate. Now it was in my mind to shoot the dog out of its misery, to which end I cocked my pistol, but seeing how piteously it looked on me and crawled to lick my hand, I resolved to carry it along with us and forthwith (and no little to-do) presently contrived to get the creature into our boat, thereby saving both our lives, as you shall hear.

So we cast off and I sat to watch the boat until like a phantom, it melted into the mist and vanished away. Turning, I beheld the hound, his great head on Sir Richard’s knee, licking the hand that fondled him.

“He is pined of hunger and thirst, Martin; I will tend him whiles you sleep. He shall be a notable good sentinel and these be very keen of scent–the Spaniards do use them to track down poor runaway slaves withal, but these dogs are faithful beasts and this hath been sent us, doubtless, to some good end.”

CHAPTER XXV

WE ARE DRIVEN ASHORE

And now were days of stifling heat, of baffling airs and maddening calms, wherein we rolled helpless, until in my impatience I would betake me to the oars in a fever of desire to reach our destination and row until the sweat poured from me.

What with sea, wind and fierce sun we grew brown as any Indians, but Sir Richard seemed to mend apace and to my great joy, for as time passed my respect for him deepened and with it a kindlier feeling; for in these long days and nights of our fellowship I grew to know how, by suffering patiently borne, a man might come by a knowledge of himself and his fellows and a kindly sympathy for their sins and sorrows that is (as I do think) the truest of all wisdom.

Fain would I set down some of these heart-searching talks, but I fear lest my narration grows over-long; suffice it that few sons ever bore tenderer reverence and love to their father than I to this, my erstwhile enemy.

So will I now, passing over much that befell us on these treacherous seas, as scorching calms, torrential rains and rageful winds, and how in despite all these we held true on our course by reason of Sir Richard’s sailorly skill, I will (I say) come to a certain grey dawn and myself at the tiller whiles Sir Richard slept and beside him the great hound that we had named Pluto, since he had come to us from the dead.

Now presently I saw the dog stir uneasily and lift his head to sniff the air to windward; thereafter, being on his legs, he growled in his throat, staring ever in the one direction, and uttered a loud, deep bay, whereupon up started Sir Richard, full of question.

“Sir, look at the dog!” said I, pointing where Pluto stood abaft the mast, snuffing and staring to windward; seeing which, Sir Richard took the perspective-glass and swept with it the hazy distance.

“There is wind yonder, Martin; we must reef!” said he, the glass at his eye. So presently, whiles he steered, I shortened sail but saw his gaze bent ever to windward. “Dogs have strange senses!” quoth he. “Take the glass, Martin; your eyes are very keen; tell me if you see aught yonder in the mist against the cloudbank bearing about three points.” Looking whither he directed, I made out a dim shape that loomed amid the mist.

“You see it, Martin?”

“Aye, a ship!” said I, and even as I spoke, the wind freshening, the rain ceased, the mist thinned away, and I saw a large vessel ahead of us standing in for the land which bore some five miles to leeward, a high, rugged coast, very grim and forbidding.

“How is she heading, Martin?”

“Southwesterly, I make it, which should bring her close upon us mighty soon, if the wind hold.” And passing Sir Richard the glass, I sat staring on this distant ship in no little apprehension, since I judged most vessels that plied hereabouts could be but one of two sorts, viz: pirates or Spaniards.

“She is a great ship, Martin, and by her cut I think Spanish.”

“I had liefer she were a pirate!” said I, scowling.

“Your wish may be granted soon enough, for she is going free and much wind astern of her.”

Now whiles Sir Richard watched this oncoming vessel, I took up Don Federigo’s sword, and, struck by its beauty, began to examine it as I had not done hitherto. And indeed a very noble weapon it was, the hilt of rare craftsmanship, being silver cunningly inlaid with gold, long and narrow in the blade, whereon, graven in old Spanish, I saw the legend:

TRUST IN GOD AND ME.

A most excellent weapon, quick in the hand by reason of its marvellous poise and balance. But looking upon this, I must needs remember him that had given it and bethinking me how he had plucked me forth from the horror of death and worse, I raised my head to scowl again upon the oncoming ship, and with teeth hard-set vowed within myself that no power should drag me a living man back to the terrors of dungeon and torment. And now as I crouched thus, scowling on the ship, the naked sword across my knees, Sir Richard called to me:

“She is Spanish-built beyond all doubting and whoever chance to be aboard, they’ve seen us,” said he, setting by the glass. “Come now, let us take counsel whether to go about, hold on, or adventure running ashore, the which were desperate risk by the look of things–“

“Let us stand on so long as we may,” quoth I, “for if the worst come, we have always this,” and reaching a pistol, I laid it on the thwart beside me.

“Nay, Martin,” said he, his hand on my shoulder, “first let us do all we may to live, trusting in God Who hath saved and delivered us thus far. We have arms to our defence and I can still pull trigger at a pinch, or at extremity we may run ashore and contrive to land, though ’tis an evil coast as you may see and I, alack! am a better traveller sitting thus than afoot. As to dying, Martin, if it must be so, why then let us choose our own fashion, for as Sir Richard Grenville hath it, ‘better fall into the hands of God than into the claws of Spain!”

Thus spake my companion mighty cheering, his serene blue eyes now on me, now on the distant ship, as he held our heeling boat to the freshening wind; hereupon, greatly comforted I grasped his hand and together we vowed never to be taken alive. Then, seeing the ship come down on us apace, I busied myself laying to hand such arsenal as Don Federigo had furnished us withal, viz: four muskets with their bandoliers and two brace of pistols; which done, I took to watching the ship again until she was so close I might discern her lofty, crowded decks. And then, all at once, the wind died utterly away, and left us becalmed, to my inexpressible joy. For now, seeing the great ship roll thus helpless, I seized the oars.

“Inshore!” I cried, and began to row might and main, whereat those aboard ship fired a gun to windward and made a waft with their ensign as much as to bid us aboard them. But I heeding no whit, they let fly a great shot at us that, falling short, plunged astern in a whirl of spray. Time and again they fired such fore-chase guns as chanced to bear, but finding us out of range, they gave over wasting more powder and I rejoiced, until suddenly I espied that which made me gloomy enough, for ‘twixt the ship and us came a boat full of men who rowed lustily; and they being many and I one, they began to overhaul us rapidly despite my efforts, till, panting in sweating despair, I ceased my vain labour and made to reach for the nearest musket.

“Let be, my son!” quoth Sir Richard, on his knees in the stern sheets. “Row, Martin, the boat rides steadier. Ha!” said he, with a little chuckling laugh, as a bullet hummed over us. “So we must fight, after all; well, on their own heads be it!” And as he took up and cocked a musket, I saw his eyes were shining and his lips upcurled in grim smile. “Alas, I was ever too forward for fight in the old days, God forgive me, but here, as I think, is just and sufficient cause for bloodshed.”

“They come on amain!” I gasped, as I swung to the heavy oars, wondering to behold him so unconcerned and deliberate.

“Let them come, Martin!” said he, crouching in the stern sheets, “only keep you an even stroke–so, steady it is! Aye, let them come, Martin, and God’s will be done!”

And now our pursuers began firing amain, though for the most part their shooting was very wild; but presently, finding we made no reply, they grew bolder, hallooing and shouting blithely and taking better aim, so that their shot hummed ever nearer and once or twice the boat was struck. And as I hearkened to their ribald shouting and the vicious hiss of their bullets, fierce anger took me and I began to curse Sir Richard’s delay; then came the roar of his piece and as the smoke cleared I saw a man start up in the bows of the pursuing boat and tossing up his arms, fall backwards upon the rowers, thereby throwing them into clamorous confusion so that their boat fell off and lay rolling helplessly.

“Load, Martin!” quoth Sir Richard ‘twixt shut teeth. “Load as I fire–for now by God I have ’em–see yonder!” And thrusting towards me his smoking weapon, he caught up the next, levelled and fired again, whereupon their shouting and confusion were redoubled.

Thus Sir Richard fired on them repeatedly and with deadly effect, judging by their outcries, for I was too busy loading and priming to afford them a glance, so that Sir Richard maintained as rapid a fire as possible. How long we fought them thus I know not; indeed I remember little of the matter save smoke and noise, Sir Richard’s grim figure and the occasional hiss of a bullet about us. Suddenly Sir Richard turned to stare up at me, wild-eyed and trembling, as in one of his ague-fits.

“Enough, Martin!” he gasped. “God forgive me, I ha’ done enough–and here’s the wind at last!”

Seeing this indeed was so, I sprang to loose out the reefs, which done, I saw the enemy’s boat lie wallowing in the trough and never so much as an oar stirring. But beyond this was another boat hasting to their assistance and beyond this again the ship herself, so that I joyed to feel our little vessel bounding shore-wards. But hearing a groan, I saw Sir Richard crouched at the tiller, his white head bowed upon his hand.

“God love me–are you hurt, sir?” I cried, scrambling towards him.

“No, Martin, no!” And then, “Ah, God forgive me,” he groaned again, “I fear I have been the death of too many of them–more than was needful.”

“Nay, sir,” said I, wondering. “How should this be?”

“I killed–for the joy of it, Martin.”

“‘Twas them or us, Sir Richard. And we may have to kill again–see yonder!” And I pointed where the ship was crowding sail after us with intent to cut us off ere we could make the shore–a desolation of shaggy rocks and tree-girt heights that looked ever the more formidable; yet thither we held our course, since it seemed the lesser of two evils.

Our boat, as I have said, was a good sailer; none the less the great ship overhauled us until she was near enough to open on us with her fore-chase guns again. But presently (being yet some distance from the shore) the water began to shoal, whereupon the ship bore up lest she run aground, and let fly her whole broadside, the which yet was short of us. In this comparative safety we would have brought to, but seeing the second boat had hoisted sail and was standing into these shallows after us, we perforce ran on for the shore. Soon we were among rocks and before us a line of breakers backed by frowning rocks, very dreadful to behold.

And now, at Sir Richard’s command, I struck our sail and, taking to the oars, began to row, marvelling at the skill with which he steered amid these difficult waters, and both of us looking here and there for some opening amid the breakers whereby we might gain the land.

Presently, sure enough, we espied such a place, though one none would have attempted save poor souls in such desperate case. The air about us seemed full of spume and the noise of mighty waters, but Sir Richard never faltered; his eyes looked upon the death that roared about us, serene and untroubled. And now we were amid the breakers; over my shoulder, through whirling spray, I caught a glimpse of sandy foreshore where lay our salvation; then, with sudden, rending crash, we struck and a great wave engulfed us. Tossed and buffeted among this choking smother, I was whirled, half-stunned, into shoal water and stumbling to my knees, looked back for Sir Richard. And thus I saw the dog Pluto swimming valiantly and dragging at something that struggled feebly, and plunged back forthwith to the good beast’s assistance, and thus together we brought Sir Richard ashore and lay there a while, panting and no strength to move.

At last, being recovered somewhat, I raised myself to behold my companion, his frail body shaking in an ague, his features blue and pinched. But beholding my look, he smiled and essayed a reassuring nod.

“Thanks to you and–the dog, I am very well, Martin!” said he, ‘twixt chattering teeth. “But what of the boat; she should come ashore.” Looking about, sure enough I espied our poor craft, rolling and tossing helplessly in the shallows hard by, and running thither, was seized of sudden despair, for I saw her bilged and shattered beyond repair. Now as she rolled thus, the sport of each incoming wave, I beheld something bright caught up in her tangled gear, whereupon I contrived to scramble aboard and so found this to be Don Federigo’s rapier, the which was some small mitigation of my gloom and put me to great hopes that I might find more useful things, as compass or sextant, and so found a small barrico of water firm-wedged beneath a thwart; but save for this the boat was swept bare. So having secured the barrico (and with no small to-do) I hove it ashore and got myself after it, and so came mighty despondent where sat Sir Richard as one deep in thought, his gaze on the sea, his shrivelled hand upon the head of the dog Pluto crouched beside him. “Truly we are in evil case, Martin!” quoth he, when I had told him the result of my search. “Aye, we are in woful plight! And this land of Darien is very mountainous and ill-travelling as I remember.”

“Yet needs must we adventure it,” said I gloomily.

“You must, Martin; but as for me, I bide here.”

“Here?” said I, glancing around on the barren, unlovely spot. “Sir, you talk wildly, I think; to stay here is to die.”

“Aye, Martin, so soon as God shall permit.”

“Surely our case is not so hopeless you despair thus soon?”

“Sit down, here beside me,” said he, smiling up at me. “Come and let us reason the matter, since ’tis reason lifteth man above the brutes.”

So there, on the coast of this vast, unknown wilderness, sat we two poor castaways, the great hound at our feet, his bright eyes looking from one to other of us as we spake and reasoned together thus:

Sir Richard: First of all, we are destitute, Martin.

Myself; True.

Sir Richard: Therefore our food must be such game as we can contrive to take and kill empty-handed.

Myself: This shall be my duty.

Sir Richard: Second, ’tis a perilous country by reason of wild Indians, and we are scant of arms. Third, ’tis a country of vasty mountains, of torrents, swamps and thickets and I am a mighty poor walker, being weak of my leg-joints.

Myself: Then will I aid you.

Sir Richard: Fourthly, here is a journey where though one may succeed, two cannot: full of peril and hardship for such as have a resolute spirit and strong body, and _I_ am very weak.

Myself: Yet shall your resolute spirit sustain you.

Sir Richard: Fifthly and lastly, I am a cripple, so will I stay here, Martin, praying God to bring you safe to your weary journey’s end.

Myself: I had thought you much stronger of late.

Sir Richard: Indeed so I am, but my joints have been so oft stretched on the rack that I cannot go far and then but slowly, alas!

There was silence awhile, each of us gazing out across the troubled waters, yet I, for one, seeing nothing of them. Glancing presently at Sir Richard, I saw his eyes closed, but his mouth very resolute and grim.

“And what of Joan?” I demanded. “What of your daughter?”

Now at this he started and glancing at me, his mouth of a sudden lost its grimness and he averted his head when he answered:

“Why, Martin, ’tis for her sake I will not hamper you with my useless body.”

“So is it for her sake I will never leave you here to perish!”

“Then here,” says he in a little, “here is an end to reason, Martin?”

“Aye, indeed, sir!”